The role of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation - what it means for the UK

16 January 2019

The UK's brand new Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation has officially launched, implementing part of the Sector Deal for AI and Data in the government's Industrial Strategy. The Centre will advise the government on how the UK can maximise the benefits of data-enabled technologies, including artificial intelligence.

Described as "the first body of its kind to be established anywhere in the world" by Jeremy Wright QC, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation ("CDEI") officially launched following the publication of the government's response to a 12-week consultation regarding the CDEI's role and objectives[1]. Being a core component of the government's Digital Charter, plans for the CDEI were originally announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget and it was highlighted in the £1 billion AI Sector Deal[2].

What is the CDEI's role?

The CDEI will operate as an independent advisor to the government and will be led by an independent board of expert members with three core functions[3]:

  • analysing and anticipating risks and opportunities such as gaps ​in governance and regulation that could impede the ethical and innovative deployment of data and AI;
  • agreeing and articulating best practice such as codes of conduct and standards that can guide ethical and innovative uses of AI; and
  • advising government​ on the need for action including specific policy or regulatory actions required to address or prevent barriers to innovative and ethical uses of data.

As part of providing these functions, the CDEI will operate under the following principles;

  • appropriately balance objectives for ethical and innovative uses of data and AI to ensure they deliver the greatest benefit for society and the economy;
  • take into account the economic implications of its advice, including the UK's attractiveness as a place to invest in the development of data-driven technologies;
  • provide advice that is independent, impartial, proportionate and evidence-based; and
  • work closely with existing regulators and other institutions to ensure clarity and consistency of guidance

The CDEI's first project will be exploring the use of data in shaping people's online experiences and investigating the potential for bias in decisions made using algorithms. It will also publish its first strategy document by spring 2019 where it will set out how it proposes to operate with other organisations and other institutions recently announced by the government, namely the AI Council and the Office for AI.

What does this mean?

This news is another illustration of the government's commitment to the UK's efforts in AI which, according to a PwC research, has the potential to contribute up to £232 billion to the British economy by 2030[4]. Kriti Sharma, one of the CDEI's newly appointed board members, commented that the CDEI "will play a key role in making sure we have an environment which supports ethical innovation and position the UK as a world leader in the development of AI."[5]


[1] Consultation on the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

[2] AI Sector Deal

[3] Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

[4] Artificial Intelligence could add £232bn to UK GDP by 2030 - PwC research

[5] Stellar new board appointed to lead world-first Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation

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