On Monday 22 March 2021, Scotland's AI Strategy was launched. We discuss the Strategy and its action plan, and what it means for the development and use of AI in Scotland.

AI is an increasingly popular and powerful method of using technology to solve problems. It has been identified as a useful tool in achieving Scotland's goal to become a prosperous and sustainable country with increased wellbeing for its residents, under the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework.

AI is also an area where Scotland punches above its weight. A number of Scottish universities are recognised as global leaders in AI. This, combined with the thriving tech ecosystem, means that Scotland is home to a number of start-ups and high-growth companies focussed on leveraging AI across a range of sectors, including health and financial services.

In order to help use AI to meet the Scottish Government's goals, The Data Lab and the Scottish Government have developed and published the Strategy. The Strategy covers a broad range of technology, defining AI as any "technologies used to allow computers to perform tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speed recognition, and language translation".

The Strategy sets out how Scotland can develop AI in an effective and ethical way.

The Strategy

Development of the Strategy was directed by a Steering Committee chaired by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes, and comprised of members from across various industries. It was informed by five working groups of data experts.

The Strategy sets out a vision for Scotland to become a leader in the development and use of trustworthy, ethical and inclusive AI. This vision is underpinned by principles like sustainability, fairness and inclusion.

To achieve its vision, the Strategy provides for collective leadership, in the form of a newly-established AI Alliance. It also states that the public sector will lead by example by making responsible use of AI to serve the public.

Under the Strategy, the AI Alliance will collaborate with other groups worldwide, and publish an AI Playbook to share best practice and effective uses of AI.

Alongside the Strategy, a new funding programme was announced to support AI and data-driven innovation. More information on this will be released in due course.

The roadmap

The roadmap for implementing the Strategy is split out to be undertaken across three time periods:

The first 100 days

In the first 100 days, the AI Alliance will be officially established and begin work on the AI Playbook.

Collaboration is key to the Strategy, so the AI Alliance will collaborate with a range of partners to align the Strategy with other national technology strategies.

The first year

In the first year, the AI Alliance will audit Scotland's AI "ecosystem" to identify the tools, influence and opportunities the country has to encourage the use of AI. It will formulate a plan to engage talent, businesses and investors in Scotland and beyond with an interest in AI. It will also target the public with a community engagement strategy to promote its work and encourage everyone in Scotland to learn about AI.

The AI Alliance will share its knowledge by continually updating the AI Playbook and helping to scale the Data Lab's services to provide more help for businesses who want to use AI. Using its international partnerships, it will try to influence global AI standards and regulations.

The Alliance will also encourage responsible use of AI by establishing an AI For Good Programme to address societal issues with AI, and consult on a public sector AI Charter.

The second year and beyond

In the second year and beyond, in order to make AI more accessible, the AI Alliance will increase educational opportunities for the public and support upskilling and reskilling of workers. It will continue to review and update the AI Playbook based on feedback and results attained.

Importantly, the AI Alliance will aim to provide access to data for use in research and innovation, while ensuring security and privacy for the data subjects. In the public sector, it will accelerate use of common digital and data standards, and create a register of trusted algorithms for use. It will encourage innovative procurement to increase the uptake of AI in this sector.

Finally, it will consider establishing a data advocacy and recourse service for the people of Scotland.

More information

The Strategy can be found in full at its website. It represents a significant commitment to developing AI by the Scottish Government and has been broadly welcomed by industry.

Brodies' IP, Tech and Data team regularly advises on the use of AI. If you like to discuss the Strategy, the opportunities for developing AI or establishing a business in Scotland, or advice on the legal issues associated with using AI, please get in touch.