The UK government has taken a significant step towards regulating artificial intelligence (AI) with the release of initial guidance aimed at supporting regulators in implementing pro-innovation AI regulatory principles.

The voluntary guidance provides considerations for regulators, allowing them to develop tools and guidance aligning with the UK’s approach to AI regulation.

In March 2023, the UK government outlined its pro-innovation approach to AI regulation in the AI Regulation White Paper. The framework includes five key principles for regulators to interpret and apply within their jurisdiction. These principles encompass safety, security, and robustness; appropriate transparency and explainability; fairness; accountability and governance; and contestability and redress. The current guidance aligns with the commitment made in the White Paper to produce tools and guidance supporting the implementation of these principles.

Phase One Guidance

The newly released guidance marks the first phase, providing regulators with considerations as they develop tools and guidance specific to their remits. While not prescriptive, the guidance encourages regulators to contemplate the principles and commence the development of regulatory activities that support AI developers, deployers, and end-users within their jurisdiction. The guidance acknowledges that regulators adopting a ‘technology-agnostic’ approach need to ensure their regulatory framework sufficiently covers AI-related issues.

To ensure a cohesive AI regulatory landscape, the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) has initiated the establishment of a central function. This function aids regulators in understanding the AI risk landscape, conducts risk assessments, and provides expert risk analysis. The central function also supports the development of regulators’ skills and expertise in AI. A £10 million package has been allocated to enhance regulators’ AI capabilities, with the central function collaborating with regulators to leverage this funding effectively.

Phased Approach and Future Iterations

The UK government plans a phased approach to issuing guidance, with phase two expected to provide more detailed information by summer 2024. This iteration will incorporate feedback from regulators and stakeholders, offering additional mechanisms and resources from the central function. Phase three involves collaborative efforts with regulators to identify areas for joint tools and guidance across regulatory remits, fostering a multi-regulator approach where appropriate.

The guidance underscores the importance of regulatory coherence and aims to encourage the development of tools and guidance that promote knowledge and understanding. Regulators are encouraged to focus on outcomes, promoting awareness, and addressing AI-related risks in their specific contexts. The document recognises the diversity of regulators and suggests a tailored approach to AI regulation, acknowledging that not all principles may be relevant to specific regulators.

As the guidance evolves through subsequent phases, the UK government seeks to refine and expand its support for regulators in managing AI-related challenges. The ultimate goal is to create a regulatory environment that fosters innovation, ensures competition, and effectively addresses the complexities associated with AI technologies.

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