Big data and artificial intelligence are transforming the way we live and work and is emerging as a key contributor in the fight against coronavirus.
All eyes have been on China; from monitoring the spread of the disease since the outbreak, to its technological advances as a hub for big tech.
We have witnessed a steep incline in the development of AI-related research and applications out of China over the past few years, and four months on from the first reported case of the virus these technologies are now being deployed in full force to combat Covid-19, from screening to containment and drug development.
But while AI has the potential to create innovative solutions to control the epidemic, robust discussions focus on data privacy and public health benefits that guide the approach of data tracking.
We discussed this in great depths at the virtual evidence meeting by members of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI, covering the pros and cons of a top-down, central data trust approach and a blockchain-led, bottom-up, voluntary product approach.
There are obvious ethical, political and legal challenges as noted by the European Data Protection Board, which issued a position statement in March.
For that reason, the responsible use of AI has become a key environmental, social and governance consideration and will continue to be a prominent theme for us over the long term.
We urge businesses to harness this opportunity by addressing and scrutinising the sustainability issues surrounding AI. If handled responsibly, its benefits could serve humankind, corporations and society at large.
One such company that has come to the fore during the pandemic has been Ping An, an integrated financial services provider dual-listed in Hong Kong and Shanghai and headquartered in Shenzhen.
As nations have struggled to grasp the severity of the outbreak, Ping An’s smart healthcare team has developed a smart image-reading system to help provide clarity on the number of people affected by the virus.
With human operators in China unable to carry out the volume of screenings needed, Ping An’s system enables up to 3,000 AI robots to screen at the same time, creating efficiencies and freeing up personnel to prioritise other tasks.
We have now seen experts urging the UK to follow suit and explore the option of a virus-tracking application to relieve some of the impacts felt by the pandemic in the west.
We are supportive of AI-generated products such as those created by Ping An, however the rapid pace of innovation can also result in risks in vulnerabilities.
We have engaged with the company since 2017 on issues including ethical implications of increased use of AI in the sector, such as the potential amplification of inherent bias or discrimination against the disadvantaged.
In August 2019, based on our recommendations, the company became the first Chinese asset owner signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment network and one of the first major financial institutions globally to publish a set of AI ethical principles.