Is regulation on AI a done deal?

What the Government’s AI White Paper
means for businesses

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology published its AI White Paper this week, marking the Government’s next step in regulating AI.

But what does the AI White Paper really mean for businesses, where is regulation heading, and how should businesses engage with government and regulators as the regulation on AI continues to develop?

Not much will change …

Importantly, the AI White Paper did not tell us much about what businesses, or even regulators, can expect – it is a proposal for regulation, rather than a framework which will be implemented.

What it lacks in detail, it makes up for with a dizzying amount of structural language.

The “essential characteristics” for the regulatory regime, the “key elements” designed to empower existing regulators, and the cross-sectoral “principles” those regulators will be asked to consider, make for a complicated read.

But the White Paper does make clear that a regulatory framework is not imminent. The Government launched a consultation alongside the White Paper, which invites individuals and organisations to provide their views on its approach and proposed framework. It will run until June 2023, and the Government expect to publish its response in the next six months.

…for now…

While it will be business as usual for a little while, the Government used the AI White Paper to announce a raft of ambitious next steps to drive regulation. A period of engagement with industry will precede the Government’s response to the consultation launched yesterday, followed by an AI Regulation Roadmap, and a set of cross-sectoral principles.

Beyond this the Government will undertake a vast swathe of other actions, most notably encouraging regulators to publish guidance on how the principles apply within their sectors, and publishing a draft central, cross-economy AI risk register, for consultation.

…and businesses should be ready to engage.

Currently, the most immediate way to influence the development of the UK’s regulatory regime around AI is by responding to the new consultation; it provides businesses with the opportunity to feedback on the proposals made in the White Paper and the Government’s overall approach.

But more broadly, the lack of specific detail in the AI White Paper provides an outstanding opportunity for businesses whose licence to operate and commercial environment will depend on the outcome of the Government’s work.

With the Government outlining its planned activity over the course of the next year and beyond, businesses have a unique insight on what is coming next for regulation, and can plan accordingly.

The White Paper can be viewed as a roadmap, which enables businesses to engage when and where the policy discussion is most relevant to them, and aligns with their priorities for regulation – you simply have to be alert to the opportunities coming down the line.

Now is the time to plan that engagement, and ensure that you are shaping your operating environment for the years to come.

If you’d like to have an informal chat about how the AI White Paper and the Government’s upcoming activity could impact your business, when you should be looking to engage, and how you should approach this engagement, please get in touch via [email protected]