Kathy Gibson is at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona – The world is at an inflexion point where we can take advantage of a raft of intelligent new technologies – but there are major concerns about the societal effects of those technologies.

“It’s important the we usher these new technologies into society in the right way,” says Mark Foster, senior vice-president of IBM Global Business Services.

We are experiencing a convergence of technologies, which are coming together at scale, and will change the way business gets done, he adds.

“The new enterprise has to think about business in new ways, and will be massively cognitively-enabled, Foster explains. “But it’s also clear that this is taking place at a time when concerns over data privacy are becoming very real.”

Recent research from IBM on the implementation of AI, shows that data responsibility is the major issue on CIOs minds.

They believe there will be new demand from users and customers about the introduction of technologies; and that new legislation governing these issues will soon follow.

“At IBM, we believe these technologies must be used in a way that is ethical and responsible,” Foster says.

“We believe AI is there to augment – not replace – our intelligence, so the purpose needs to be very clear; AI needs to be transparent, so we need to understand the algorithms and know there is no bias; and the ownership of the data lies with the creator of the data, so there should be no abuse of it.”

IBM’s Watson is one of the initiators of this new wave of AI. “Recently, we have augmented Watson with OpenScale to help everyone implement these new technologies and to ensure there is no bias to algorithms.

“We believe that regulation will need to be put into place to ensure that we all move forward in a safe way,” Foster adds. “We believe it’s important that there are standards around AI and its application on ethics

“And we believe it will be important that regulation is passed that differentiates between consumer and customer data when using data to help business operations.”

At the same time, there is a strong belief that those promulgating consumer platforms do so thoughtfully, and are held accountable if those platforms do harm or evil.

Foster points out that a major success factor for AI and other cognitive technologies lies in the availability of new digital skills.

Indeed, a recent study form the European Union found that 90% of jobs will require digital skills going forward.

“At IBM, we believe 100% of all jobs will change and we will enter into a period of continuous learning and reskilling,” Foster adds. “As we do that, we need to think about that skills agenda in a way that is completely inclusive, that no-one is left behind. And those historically left behind should get an opportunity to join the economy.”

Angel Gurria, secretary-general at the Organisation for Economic co-operation and development, points out that the digital revolution has already created countless benefits.

“Digital technologies are fueling remarkable progress and inclusion,” he explains.

In fact, the fastest growth of jobs in the EU has been in the scientific and technology sectors, Gurria says.

Technology, particularly AI, is helping people to make better predictions and decisions at all levels. “Today we have evidence that AI performance improves when machines work collaboratively with men and women who have the right skills and knowledge.

“At the same time, AI has been a great niche for business development and investment, with total equity start-up investments having increased by a factor of 20.

“AI technologies are maturing, and business models are improving, bringing AI closer to mass-scale rollout,” Gurria adds.

A number of countries have recognisied the potential of AI and are trying to shape strategic foresight with the private sector, the technical community and civil society all joining legislators in taking action.

Because, despite the benefits of AI, its presence in our lives is also causing disruption, Gurria points out. Almost half of all jobs are either at a high risk of AI automation or a risk of significant disruption, he says.

AI can cause anxieties, giving rise to ethical and diversity issues. Chief among these are privacy and security, safety, and the danger of codifying existing biases – including those relating to gender and race.

“So we must avoid the real danger of establishing automated discrimination in things like hiring, load approvals or criminal justice,” Gurria says.

“And we must keep in mind that the more data we collect, the greater the security and privacy implications. As AI alters the landscape of human activity, it demands urgent responses from policy makers, business leaders, civil society and people at large.

“We need to have rules of the game.”

Gurria points out that the OECD, along with many other organisations, is defining a position on AI and guidelines for its application.