Sadiq Khan: Brexit chaos sidelined vital prep for technological change

10 June 2019
  • Mayor warns Britain ‘should be much further ahead than we are now’ 


The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has warned that Brexit chaos has resulted in the Government sidelined preparations for the potential impact of rapid technological change on our society.


He has called on the next Prime Minister to give the Artificial Intelligence revolution the attention it deserves, with a renewed focus on public understanding and trust.


Speaking at CogX, an event hosted by leading AI firm CognitionX on the opening day of London Tech Week 2019, the Mayor will warn that we should be much further ahead than we are now as a country – not only in terms of making sure we can make the most of what AI has to offer, but in educating the public, encouraging public debate and preparing for the potential impact on our society.


The Mayor will also outline how local and national government should embrace the transformative potential of AI to deliver better services, but that we ‘must tread extremely carefully’ given the many ethical and privacy issues that the advancement of AI raises. 


London is already a leading destination for this exciting field and is home to more than 750 AI firms, more than twice as many as its closest European rivals – Paris and Berlin – combined.


AI has been adopted in a range of services in London, such as online chatbots offering customer services, the prioritisation of council home repairs and maintenance, traffic signalling and demand-responsive transport to ease congestion.


But Sadiq wants to go further and for London and Britain to become true world-leaders in AI – both in our development of new tech and in how we ensure it’s always beneficial, not detrimental, to our future. 


On the need to harness the power of AI to benefit Londoners whilstconsidering the ethical and privacy issues, Sadiq Khan is expected to say: 


“A crucial part of making the most of innovation is about embracing AI’s potential and the incredible benefits it can bring to people.


“Whilst I’m a big advocate for cities to get engaged and motivated to make the most of tech to improve lives - we must also tread extremely carefully. There’s no question that the rise of machine learning and AI in city government – and around the world in general – raises many ethical and privacy issues. 


“It's crucial that we ensure we secure, rather than undermine, the confidence of local citizens. For people need to have trust in tech if we’re to make the most of it, and this is what we’re setting out to do in London.”


On how Brexit has resulted in the government sidelining preparations for the impact of AI, Sadiq Khan is expected to say:    


“As Mayor, I want us to continue to lead by example in London to show how we can use AI effectively and to show how it’s possible to bring the public with us, but the truth is that if we’re going to get this right, we must all work together – the AI sector as well as both local and national government. 


“There’s no doubt that as a country we should be much further ahead than we are now – not only in terms of making sure we can make the most of what AI has to offer, but in terms of educating the public, encouraging public debate and preparing for the potential impact on our society.


“Unfortunately - like with so many other issues in recent years - Brexit seems to have resulted in the government side-lining preparations for the potential impact of AI on our society, draining central government resource and attention away from one of the most important debates of the day.”  


On how the next prime minister must give AI the attention it deserves, Sadiq Khan is expected to say:  


“I call on the next Prime Minister - whoever that may be - to give AI the attention it deserves.  


“With such profound questions ahead, the public has a right to be heard, and a right to expect democratic leaders to guide them along this delicate path. Because it must ultimately fall to government – working with tech businesses and leaders - to ensure that AI adoption is always steered towards augmenting, not replacing human thought and endeavour.


“Let’s make sure that London and Britain become true world-leaders in AI – both in our development of new tech, and in how we implement it for good.” 


Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder of CognitionX, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Mayor to CogX this year, where he's joined by so many industry, public service and academic leaders from around the world, who are all committed to making sure that AI is used ethically and responsibly, so that we can fully realise the social and economic benefits.


London is taking the lead, both with regard to its thriving artificial intelligence and machine learning cluster, and through the innovative trialling and roll-out of AI-powered services that will help improve the lives of Londoners and those visiting London, now and for future generations”.

Notes to editors

In London, AI technology is already being piloted for a wide range of uses, from drones in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to autonomous vehicle testing in Greenwich and facial recognition by the Metropolitan Police.


The Mayor and his team at City Hall, including London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, have already pushed forward on a number of fronts in this area: 


City-to-city collaboration: in March, London joined New York, Barcelona and Amsterdam in forming the Cities for Digital Rights Coalition, which commits the capital to working with other leading tech cities on developing frameworks and understanding citizens’ digital rights. 


Data-sharing: the Chief Digital Officer is working on ‘a new deal for data’ looking at how we can improve data-sharing to tackle the city’s biggest challenges. 


Developing political leadership: Working with the Smart London Board and the City of Helsinki on how we can equip politicians and public servants with the right questions to ask to ensure suitable public accountability. 


Using data safely: in April, City Hall shared the findings of work to create London’s first Data Trust with the Open Data Institute. This explores how we share citizen data safety and securely. 


Engaging citizens about data use: last year, City Hall directly engaged thousands of Londoners and elected politicians in a discussion on the use of sensors and their attitudes to data sharing. 


Informing the public about data collection: working with Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure that public are informed about when and how their data is collected (e.g. patterns of movement on the Tube network). 


About London Tech Week 


London Tech Week is a festival of live events across the city, showcasing and celebrating the best of tech with networking, social, learning and business opportunities. It is produced by the Informa Tech Division, with London & Partners and Tech London Advocates. London Tech Week 2018 held over 200 tech events, welcomed 50,000 attendees from 90 countries and reached 297 million people on social media.


About CognitionX 


CognitionX is a platform for exploring how tech can solve the world's most intractable problems and in 2019 it is partnering with 2030 Vision to tackle the Global Goals of the UN.

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