Coronavirus (COVID)—research on use of AI and technology published

Coronavirus (COVID)—research on use of AI and technology published

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) has published new research on the UK’s use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data-driven technology in its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, finding that AI did not play as big a role as had been anticipated. The research includes a longitudinal survey, which found that public support for increased use of digital technology depends on their trust in it being operated properly.

The report, found here, identifies trends that the CDEI has noticed from its coronavirus repository, a database cataloguing innovative uses of AI in the endeavour to mitigate the effects and rate of transmission. Examples of AI use in the response include online chatbots to inform hospital staff of the latest guidance, AI-driven models for rapid virus detection, and the advancement of vaccine research.

It found that AI did not have the significant impact that it was thought that it would in relief efforts. Rather, conventional data analysis was at the centre of the government’s coronavirus response, underpinned by data-sharing agreements. Where AI was most prevalent, it is used predominantly in a healthcare setting.

The report contains results from a longitudinal survey, commissioned to ascertain public opinion on the government’s use of AI and data-driven technology in its response to coronavirus. The survey, which ran from June–December 2020 and took responses from a sample of over 12,000 people, discovered that while 72% of people believe that digital technology has the potential to be used in the UK’s response to the virus, only 42% believe that it is improving the situation. 39% said that this is because they do not think that the technology is being used properly, rather than because of the problems with the technology itself.

The biggest predictor for supporting greater use of technology in the UK’s coronavirus response is a belief that ‘the right rules and regulations are in place’. This is more informative of a person’s opinion on data-driven technology than any demographic factor, such as age or ethnicity.

The CDEI says it will continue to push for the development of data governance mechanisms that the public can put its faith in.

Source: COVID-19 repository and public attitudes retrospective

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