UNESCO member states adopt the first ever global agreement on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence


Press Release: “In 2018, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, launched an ambitious project: to give the world an ethical framework for the use of artificial intelligence. Three years later, thanks to the mobilization of hundreds of experts from around the world and intense international negotiations, the 193 UNESCO’s member states have just officially adopted this ethical framework….

The Recommendation aims to realize the advantages AI brings to society and reduce the risks it entails. It ensures that digital transformations promote human rights and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing issues around transparency, accountability and privacy, with action-oriented policy chapters on data governance, education, culture, labour, healthcare and the economy. 

  1. Protecting data 

The Recommendation calls for action beyond what tech firms and governments are doing to guarantee individuals more protection by ensuring transparency, agency and control over their personal data. It states that individuals should all be able to access or even erase records of their personal data. It also includes actions to improve data protection and an individual’s knowledge of, and right to control, their own data. It also increases the ability of regulatory bodies around the world to enforce this.

  1. Banning social scoring and mass surveillance

The Recommendation explicitly bans the use of AI systems for social scoring and mass surveillance. These types of technologies are very invasive, they infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms, and they are used in a broad way. The Recommendation stresses that when developing regulatory frameworks, Member States should consider that ultimate responsibility and accountability must always lie with humans and that AI technologies should not be given legal personality themselves. 

  1. Helping to monitor and evaluate

The Recommendation also sets the ground for tools that will assist in its implementation. Ethical Impact Assessment is intended to help countries and companies developing and deploying AI systems to assess the impact of those systems on individuals, on society and on the environment. Readiness Assessment Methodology helps Member States to assess how ready they are in terms of legal and technical infrastructure. This tool will assist in enhancing the institutional capacity of countries and recommend appropriate measures to be taken in order to ensure that ethics are implemented in practice. In addition, the Recommendation encourages Member States to consider adding the role of an independent AI Ethics Officer or some other mechanism to oversee auditing and continuous monitoring efforts. 

  1. Protecting the environment

The Recommendation emphasises that AI actors should favour data, energy and resource-efficient AI methods that will help ensure that AI becomes a more prominent tool in the fight against climate change and on tackling environmental issues. The Recommendation asks governments to assess the direct and indirect environmental impact throughout the AI system life cycle. This includes its carbon footprint, energy consumption and the environmental impact of raw material extraction for supporting the manufacturing of AI technologies. It also aims at reducing the environmental impact of AI systems and data infrastructures. It incentivizes governments to invest in green tech, and if there are disproportionate negative impact of AI systems on the environment, the Recommendation instruct that they should not be used….(More)”.

Fairer Democracy: Designing a Better Citizens’ Assembly


Press release by The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation: “Last winter, 80 residents of Washington State convened virtually to discuss the best ways for their state to tackle climate change. Their final recommendations were shared with state legislators, who are now considering some of the ideas in their policymaking. But the participants of the Washington Climate Assembly were neither climate experts nor politicians. Instead, they were randomly selected citizens from all walks of life, chosen carefully to reflect a range of demographics and views on climate change.

Such citizens’ assemblies are an increasingly popular way, around the world, of engaging average people in their democracies. But ensuring that participants are truly representative of society at large is a daunting analytical challenge. 

That’s where Bailey Flanigan, a Hertz Fellow and a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, comes in. Flanigan and colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and Harvard University have developed a new algorithm for selecting the participants in citizens’ assemblies, a process called sortition. The goal of their approach, she says, is to improve the fairness of sortition—and it’s already been published in Nature and used to select participants for dozens of assemblies, including the Washington Climate Assembly….

The researchers have made their algorithm, which they dubbed Panelot, available for public use, and Procaccia said it’s already been used in selecting more than 40 citizens’ assemblies. 

“It’s testament to the potential impact of work in this area that our algorithm has been enthusiastically adopted by so many organizations,” Flanigan said. “A lot of practitioners were using their own algorithms, and the idea that computer scientists can help centralize efforts to make sortition fairer and more transparent has started some exciting conversations.”…(More)”

Launch of UN Biodiversity Lab 2.0: Spatial data and the future of our planet


Press Release: “…The UNBL 2.0 is a free, open-source platform that enables governments and others to access state-of-the-art maps and data on nature, climate change, and human development in new ways to generate insight for nature and sustainable development. It is freely available online to governments and other stakeholders as a digital public good…

The UNBL 2.0 release responds to a known global gap in the types of spatial data and tools, providing an invaluable resource to nations around the world to take transformative action. Users can now access over 400 of the world’s best available global spatial data layers; create secure workspaces to incorporate national data alongside global data; use curated data collections to generate insight for action; and more. Without specialized tools or training, decision-makers can leverage the power of spatial data to support priority-setting and the implementation of nature-based solutions. Dynamic metrics and indicators on the state of our planet are also available….(More)”.

EU-US Trade and Technology Council: Commission launches consultation platform for stakeholder’s involvement to shape transatlantic cooperation


Press Release: “Today, the Commission launched an online consultation platform on the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC), allowing stakeholders to share their views and provide common proposals on the work ahead.

Following their first meeting in Pittsburgh last month, representatives of the European Union and the United States agreed on the importance of and commitment to consulting closely with diverse stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic on their coordinated approaches to key global technology, economic, and trade issues. It is in this context that the Commission has set up a one-stop-shop on its online “Futurium” platform, to collect input from all interested parties relating to the TTC.

Businesses, think tanks, labour, non-profit and environmental organisations, academics, and other parties that form the civil society at large are invited to contribute, as essential actors to successful EU-US cooperation. The platform is open to everyone after a simple registration. It allows interested parties to have their voice heard in the work of the ten specific TTC Working Groups. Via this website, they can not only feed in their views, but also receive important information and updates on the progress of the different working groups…(More)“.

WHO, Germany open Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence in Berlin


Press Release: “To better prepare and protect the world from global disease threats, H.E. German Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General, will today inaugurate the new WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, based in Berlin. 

“The world needs to be able to detect new events with pandemic potential and to monitor disease control measures on a real-time basis to create effective pandemic and epidemic risk management,” said Dr Tedros. “This Hub will be key to that effort, leveraging innovations in data science for public health surveillance and response, and creating systems whereby we can share and expand expertise in this area globally.” 

The WHO Hub, which is receiving an initial investment of US$ 100 million from the Federal Republic of Germany, will harness broad and diverse partnerships across many professional disciplines, and the latest technology, to link the data, tools and communities of practice so that actionable data and intelligence are shared for the common good.

The  WHO Hub is part of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme and will be a new collaboration of countries and partners worldwide, driving innovations to increase availability of key data; develop state of the art analytic tools and predictive models for risk analysis; and link communities of practice around the world. Critically, the WHO Hub will support the work of public health experts and policy-makers in all countries with the tools needed to forecast, detect and assess epidemic and pandemic risks so they can take rapid decisions to prevent and respond to future public health emergencies.

“Despite decades of investment, COVID-19 has revealed the great gaps that exist in the world’s ability to forecast, detect, assess and respond to outbreaks that threaten people worldwide,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergency Programme. “The WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence is designed to develop the data access, analytic tools and communities of practice to fill these very gaps, promote collaboration and sharing, and protect the world from such crises in the future.” 

The Hub will work to:

  • Enhance methods for access to multiple data sources vital to generating signals and insights on disease emergence, evolution and impact;
  • Develop state of the art tools to process, analyze and model data for detection, assessment and response;
  • Provide WHO, our Member States, and partners with these tools to underpin better, faster decisions on how to address outbreak signals and events; and
  • Connect and catalyze institutions and networks developing disease outbreak solutions for the present and future.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, currently Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, has been appointed to lead the WHO Hub….(More)” 

Alliance formed to create new professional standards for data science


Press Release: “A new alliance has been formed to create industry-wide professional standards for data science. ‘The Alliance for Data Science Professionals’ is defining the standards needed to ensure an ethical and well-governed approach so the public, organisations and governments can have confidence in how their data is being used. 

While the skills of data scientists are increasingly in demand, there is currently no professional framework for those working in the field. These new industry-wide standards, which will be finalised by the autumn, look to address current issues, such as data breaches, the misuse of data in modelling and bias in artificial intelligence. They can give people confidence that their data is being used ethically, stored safely and analysed robustly. 

The Alliance members, who initially convened in July 2020, are the Royal Statistical Society, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, the Operational Research Society, the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, the Alan Turing Institute and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). They are supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society.  

Since convening, the Alliance has worked with volunteers and stakeholders to develop draft standards for individuals, standards for universities seeking accreditation of their courses and a certification process that will enable both individuals and education providers to gain recognition based on skills and knowledge within data science.  

Governed by a memorandum of understanding, the Alliance is committed to:  

  • Defining the standards of professional competence and behaviour expected of people who work with data which impacts life and livelihoods. These include data scientists, data engineers, data analysts and data stewards.  
  • Using an open-source process to maintain and update the standards. 
  • Delivering these standards as data science certifications offered by the Alliance members to their professional members, with processes to hold certified members accountable for their professional status in this area. 
  • Using these standards as criteria for Alliance members to accredit data science degrees, and data science modules of associated degrees, as contributing to certification. 
  • Creating a single searchable public register of certified data science professionals….(More)”.

Leveraging Digitalisation for a Resilient, Strong, Sustainable and Inclusive Recovery


G20 Declaration: “…We recognise the importance of data-driven innovation and the growing demand of data across society. Coherent and responsible data governance frameworks that guide the reuse and sharing of data should ensure confidence and security, privacy, personal data protection and the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, taking into account differences in national legal systems. This could be accompanied by policies that foster investments in data infrastructure and architecture that have positive spillovers across industries and society. Increased, open and accessible government data could help encourage innovation, in particular among MSMEs….

We call for close coordination to promote statistical guidance and move from outcome measures of the digital gender divide to the analysis of enabling and disabling factors. To this end, we acknowledge the importance of developing sound statistical infrastructures, including through dedicated statistical surveys, appropriate domestic, national and international legal and technical frameworks for data access and use, while protecting personal data and privacy, strengthening of NSOs’ capabilities in using linked data, increased availability of open data, and enhanced collaboration with the private sector and relevant stakeholders, including in exploring alternative sources of data and data collection practices…

Moreover, rapid technological development in emerging technologies can offer the potential to transform the way in which G20 governments design and deliver public policies and services. We reaffirm our commitment to foster the conditions and competencies necessary to unlock the potential of digital technologies and data in order to ensure the resilience, security, human centricity, and sustainability of our governments, while managing risks related to security, data protection, including personal data, and privacy, and bias in algorithms. Particular attention should be paid to bridging all kinds of digital divides….(More) (PressRelease)”.

New Study Uses Crowdsourcing to Strengthen American Democracy


Press Release: “Americans have always disagreed about politics, but now levels of anti-democratic attitudes, support for partisan violence, and partisan animosity have reached concerning levels. While there are many ideas for tackling these problems, they have never been gathered, tested, and evaluated in a unified effort. To address this gap, the Stanford Polarization and Social Change Lab is launching a major new initiative. The Strengthening Democracy Challenge will collect and rigorously test up to 25 interventions to reduce anti-democratic attitudes, support for partisan violence, and partisan animosity in one massive online experiment with up to 30,000 participants. Interventions can be contributed by academics, practitioners, or others with interest in strengthening democratic principles in the US. The researchers who organize the challenge — a multidisciplinary team with members at Stanford, MIT, Northwestern, and Columbia Universities — believe that crowdsourcing ideas, combined with the rigor of large-scale experimentation, can help address issues as substantial and complex as these….

Researchers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives are invited to submit interventions. The proposed interventions must be short, doable in an online form, and follow the ethical guidelines of the challenge. Academic and practitioner experts will rate the submissions and an editorial board will narrow down the 25 best submissions to be tested, taking novelty and expected success of the ideas into account. Co-organizers of the challenge include James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University; David Rand, the Erwin H. Schell Professor and Professor of Management Science and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT; James Chu, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Columbia University; and Nick Stagnaro, Post-Doctoral Fellow at MIT. The organizing team is supported by Polarization and Social Change Lab’s Chrystal RedekoppJoe Mernyk, and Sophia Pink.

The study participants will be a large sample of up to 30,000 self-identified Republicans and Democrats, nationally representative on several major demographic benchmarks….(More)”.

Commission proposes measures to boost data sharing and support European data spaces


Press Release: “To better exploit the potential of ever-growing data in a trustworthy European framework, the Commission today proposes new rules on data governance. The Regulation will facilitate data sharing across the EU and between sectors to create wealth for society, increase control and trust of both citizens and companies regarding their data, and offer an alternative European model to data handling practice of major tech platforms.

The amount of data generated by public bodies, businesses and citizens is constantly growing. It is expected to multiply by five between 2018 and 2025. These new rules will allow this data to be harnessed and will pave the way for sectoral European data spaces to benefit society, citizens and companies. In the Commission’s data strategy of February this year, nine such data spaces have been proposed, ranging from industry to energy, and from health to the European Green Deal. They will, for example, contribute to the green transition by improving the management of energy consumption, make delivery of personalised medicine a reality, and facilitate access to public services.

The Regulation includes:

  • A number of measures to increase trust in data sharing, as the lack of trust is currently a major obstacle and results in high costs.
  • Create new EU rules on neutrality to allow novel data intermediaries to function as trustworthy organisers of data sharing.
  • Measures to facilitate the reuse of certain data held by the public sector. For example, the reuse of health data could advance research to find cures for rare or chronic diseases.
  • Means to give Europeans control on the use of the data they generate, by making it easier and safer for companies and individuals to voluntarily make their data available for the wider common good under clear conditions….(More)”.

European Health Data Space


European Commission Press Release: “The set-up of the European Health Data Space will be an integral part of building a European Health Union, a process launched by the Commission today with a first set of proposals to reinforce preparedness and response during health crisis. This  is also a direct follow up of the Data strategy adopted by the Commission in February this year, where the Commission had already stressed the importance of creating European data spaces, including on health….

In this perspective, as part of the implementation of the Data strategy, a data governance act is set to be presented still this year, which will support the reuse of public sensitive data such as health data. A dedicated legislative proposal on a European health data space is planned for next year, as set out in the 2021 Commission work programme.

As first steps, the following activities starting in 2021 will pave the way for better data-driven health care in Europe:

  • The Commission proposes a European Health Data Space in 2021;
  • A Joint Action with 22 Member States to propose options on governance, infrastructure, data quality and data solidarity and empowering citizens with regards to secondary health data use in the EU;
  • Investments to support the European Health Data Space under the EU4Health programme, as well as common data spaces and digital health related innovation under Horizon Europe and the Digital Europe programmes;
  • Engagement with relevant actors to develop targeted Codes of Conduct for secondary health data use;
  • A pilot project, to demonstrate the feasibility of cross border analysis for healthcare improvement, regulation and innovation;
  • Other EU funding opportunities for digital transformation of health and care will be available for Member States as of 2021 under Recovery and Resilience Facility, European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund+, InvestEU.

The set of proposals adopted by the Commission today to strengthen the EU’s crisis preparedness and response, taking the first steps towards a European Health Union, also pave the way for the participation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in the future European Health Data Space infrastructure, along with research institutes, public health bodies, and data permit authorities in the Member States….(More)”.