LIVE FROM DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION WORLD, COPENHAGEN: Digital bosses from Vodafone UK and BT Group debated which parties within an organisation should be tasked with implementing ethical principles for AI, with the rivals divided on how much responsibility those building the systems should have.

Scott Petty, CTO of Vodafone UK (pictured, right) revealed that in the operator’s model it was not the role of the technology leaders to take a position on ethics, with his team solely focusing on building the engineering, data ingestion and tools to develop the systems.

“You have big ethical issues that require your general counsel, your EA, and commercial needs to decide where you want to position the business,” while adding the operator had also set up an AI council.

“I don’t think technology can do it, because then we’re marking our own homework.”

Conversely, Harmeen Mehta, chief digital and innovation officer at BT (pictured, second right) said this was not the case for her company, with the conversation “supported from the top, driven from all sides flooding in”.

Mehta argued that all facets of an organisation should be involved given the huge business opportunity represented by AI, from the CEO, the security team, legal teams and even developers and testers.

“I think the ownership should sit with all and at the same time, our accountability as technology leaders should be to make sure we don’t let anybody not think about it.”

Hitting back, Petty pointed to the way websites used to be made, when everybody was involved, leading to the implementation of GDPR laws because there was a failure around privacy.

“They weren’t managing them properly and we got regulated into that situation. I think we can be a bit more thoughtful here, I think we can plan a little better.”

He added that as technologists, they should be planning for the future, ensuring guide rails and safety measures “rather than waiting until the regulator comes along”.