Harnessing the Power of Artificial Intelligence for All Canadians

AI has quickly emerged as a disruptive technology that is rewiring the way we interact with the world. In fact, it’s already being used in your ride-sharing app, in your bank’s fraud detection system and in your social media accounts.

Canada has emerged as a world leader in AI, thanks in large part to significant government investments in this area of digital innovation. Our government wants to make sure that we harness these investments, and the power of AI, to provide better government services to Canadians. With AI, we can reduce backlogs and processing times while offering unprecedented convenience and personalized service to citizens and businesses.

International coordination of efforts on AI is critical to anticipating the impacts of AI and facilitating its ethical and responsible adoption. This week, we’re beginning work on the International Panel on Artificial Intelligence with France to promote a vision of human-centric artificial intelligence grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation and economic growth. We are also hosting the G7 multistakeholder conference on AI, with representatives from civil society, industry and academic, to focus on how we can best advance the responsible adoption of AI.

Because with leadership in AI comes responsibility. The benefits from AI must not come at the expense of the rights of Canadians. Our government is currently developing a directive, in the open, that sets out the responsibilities of federal departments using AI, and ensures Canadians receive meaningful explanations about the government work being done by machines. And while machines will be able to make certain assessments, it will ultimately be humans who ensure that decisions are applied responsibly.

You may have heard media reports about bias found in some AI systems. This is a subject we are closely studying, both as an area of concern and of potential learning. We’re exploring automated methods to scan for these biases, and flag decisions for human reviewers if they are detected. But, by the same token, AI can help us to identify and avoid bias. Because AI systems are fed with real-life data, AI can actually help reveal existing human biases so we can account for them.

We’re also developing one of the world’s first tools for government to assess the impact of using AI. This tool will help us understand and mitigate the potential risks associated with the responsible use of AI on a case-by-case basis. We have consulted extensively with academia, civil society and industry, and will continue to do so in the coming months. Our approach to policy development has been one of the most transparent in the history of Canada, having been fully open to the public since January 2018. Openness and transparency are central to the responsible use of AI.

To say that AI is coming would be to miss the fact that it’s already here. By ensuring AI is governed with clear values and ethics, and in accordance with human rights obligations, we can fortify Canada’s global leadership, while ensuring that Canadians benefit from this exciting technology.

Navdeep Bains is Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and host of the G7 Multistakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence taking place in Montreal. Scott Brison is the President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government.