NSW government AI projects face ethics assessment under new assurance framework

The mandated AI Assurance Framework will help agencies establish clear governance and accountability measures when using AI.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

All New South Wales government agencies using AI will be required to meet best practice ethical requirements under the country's first mandated AI Assurance Framework, which comes into effect today.

The framework, which was developed by the NSW Advisory Committee led by NSW chief data scientist Ian Oppermann, has been designed to ensure AI-based government projects are safe, ethical, and can be integrated with future technologies. It also assists agencies with risk mitigation strategies and establish clear governance and accountability measures.  

"From diagnosing sepsis in hospital patients to identifying drivers illegally using mobile phones while driving, the NSW government is already using AI to improve the lives of NSW residents," Oppermann said.

"As the technology evolves and becomes more sophisticated, the Framework will ensure projects remain transparent and include the highest levels of privacy, security and assurance, so customers can feel even more confident when dealing with the NSW government.

"Mandating the framework will ensure all NSW government services using AI are required to implement strong privacy and data management safeguards."

Projects with budgets of more than AU$5 million or supported by the Digital Restart Fund will also be subject to assessment by the AI Review Committee to ensure compliance under the new mandate.

The state government added the only exceptions where the AI Assurance Framework will not apply is when a project uses an AI system that is a widely available commercial application, and the solution is not being customised in any way or being used other than intended.

The framework is part of the state government's AI strategy in which it has pledged that transparency will be the focus and vowed to make the state the digital capital of the southern hemisphere in the next three years.

"AI stands for absolutely imperative for the new New South Wales. As we get out of this COVID period, we need to make sure we create a new New South Wales, which is technology-focused … AI is absolutely at the heart of this," Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said previously.

"When you think about what's happening around us, AI is already here. AI is in the drones as it protects us from sharks. AI is looking after us in the hospitals. AI is helping us on the roads as we try to avoid traffic. AI is already part of lives; we don't see it, but it is already here, and it is going to grow exponentially in the years ahead.

"New South Wales is unashamed to be the digital capital of the southern hemisphere in the next three years. This strategy ensures we get there."

Meanwhile, the federal government has committed AU$44 million in grant funding to establish four AI and digital capability centres, touting the move will help drive AI commercialisation in Australia.

"The centres will act as a front door for SMEs to improve their AI skills in order to adopt AI products in their businesses," Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said. 

"They will draw together industries, research institutions, innovation hubs and businesses to create an ecosystem that drives innovation, commercialisation and adoption of AI. 

The centres are being delivered under the federal government's AU$124 million AI action plan, which sets the vision for Australia to adopt and develop trusted, secure, and responsible AI, and will work alongside Australia's national AI centre in CSIRO's Data61.

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