Artificial intelligence (AI) presents a significant opportunity for people, business, and governments. McKinsey has termed GenerativeAI, “the next productivity frontier” and estimates that it ‘has the potential to generate $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion in value across industries.’

AI is revolutionising industries and ushering in a new era of work for users, businesses and more. While some organisations are already using it for small pilot projects, the real opportunity lies in exploring its ability to scale.  

In June of this year the Australian Government published its discussion paper on AI technology, called Safe and responsible AI in Australia. What it revealed is that AI is a critical technology that can help to drive productivity growth in Australia. From hospitals using it to consolidate large amounts of patient data, engineers using it to evaluate and optimise designs, to using AI-enabling improvements and cost savings in the provision of legal services, it’s clear all industries will benefit from AI. 

Australia’s economy is currently experiencing low productivity growth, its lowest for 60 years. We have an opportunity, even an obligation to, embrace this technology at all levels, across all industries to increase our economy’s output. 

At SAP, we’re bringing transformative intelligence to organisations through AI-powered innovations across both private and public sectors. For example, the Queensland Office of State Revenue is using SAP machine learning capabilities to predict those taxpayers that are at risk of defaulting. This is enabling them to proactively build personalised payment plans and deliver more timely revenue collection to the government. On the other hand, Winc, one of Australia’s largest workplace solutions companies, is using SAP intelligent robotic process automation to automate repetitive administrative tasks, freeing up its workforce to focus on more strategic and value-added activities. 

The need for AI regulation 

As the adoption of AI accelerates there is a growing discussion, prompted by the government’s recent discussion paper, around what steps must be taken to regulate it. 

While recent discussions suggest the technology industry opposes regulation, while citizens advocate for greater protections, the reality is more nuanced. 

For our part, SAP does not oppose regulation if there is harm that can be best managed by it. In fact, in most cases existing regulations are suitable for addressing some of the issues raised by AI. For example, a core principle of Australian Consumer Law is that businesses must not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct. We do not need new AI specific laws to prohibit the use of generative AI to be used to create misleading images in a consumer protection context. 

Furthermore, while AI is a complex technology, the issues arising from the impacts of AI on intellectual property rights are very different from those related to businesses using AI to determine the suitability of a loan application. 

SAP’s view is that a broad-based regulatory approach to addressing potential harms is not suitable. 

SAP’s risk-based approach to AI 

To mitigate and manage the risks associated with AI, SAP recommends the following: 

  1. A risk-based sectoral approach rather than top-down broad-based regulatory intervention: SAP recommends that regulators or policy makers undertake a risk assessment to determine whether to intervene based on end-user implications. For example, consumer protection policy makers and regulators should assess what the risks are facing a consumer who uses an AI-enabled driverless car.  
  2. Establish an AI centre of excellence: AI is a fast-moving technology with impacts across all government portfolios. To avoid overlap, inconsistency, duplication, and conflict, SAP recommends establishing an AI centre of excellence to advise and coordinate whole of government policy responses and apply a common set of principles to its application. As Ed Santow Professor & co-director, Human Technology Institute, University of Technology Sydney noted “A significant part of the problem in the AI era is not the content of our law, but the fact it is not consistently enforced when it comes to the development and use of AI. 

Government accountability does not end there. You should not regulate what you do not understand. Government must also be an exemplar in its use of AI, investing in AI across every portfolio and using it to improve its operations and citizen services.  

At the recent SAP NOW event in Sydney the former NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello reinforced this, noting that all agencies must prioritise experimenting and trialling new applications of AI technologies in their operations and policy challenges. 

The path forward requires industry collaboration 

SAP looks forward to engaging with the Government’s engagement regulatory responses to AI. However, we should not lose sight of the pressing public policy challenge of low productivity facing Australia. We know that AI technologies help us do more with less, so let’s focus on how we can accelerate our economy’s adoption of this technology.  

For more information, read SAP’s response to the Australian Government’s Safe and Responsible AI discussion paper here.