Canada's Quest for Improved Governance in AI: Navigating the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act

JJohn September 18, 2023 12:11 AM

The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) is a significant step towards better governance of AI in Canada. But to ensure long-term success, tech industry leaders suggest more comprehensive strategies, including a parliamentary science and technology officer.

Canada's tech industry advocates for AI

The AI landscape in Canada is thriving, with over 150 tech companies calling for a careful yet efficient approach to the technology. These firms acknowledge the disruptive potential of AI and the need for a solid governance framework. Embracing AI isn't just about adopting the technology, it's also about creating an environment conducive to its growth and ethical application.

The Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA), introduced in June 2022, is a landmark bill that's set to bring significant changes to the AI landscape. The bill is currently under detailed parliamentary scrutiny, illustrating the careful approach taken by the government towards this transformative technology. Even as the tech world is fast-moving, legislation like AIDA requires deliberate and thoughtful review before it can significantly shape the future of AI.

As per the current provisions of AIDA, an AI and data commissioner will be established to advise the government and enforce the law. This is seen as a positive development by the tech industry. However, there's a consensus among tech leaders that this measure alone won't suffice. They argue that such a commissioner won't be able to fully promote better governance and understanding of AI—both within Parliament and public discourse.

The need for a parliamentary science and technology officer

Tech leaders propose the creation of a new parliamentary science and technology officer, similar to the now-defunct Office of Technology Assessment in the U.S. Congress. This officer would provide MPs and the public with timely information and analysis about science and technology. This would enable legislators to act more swiftly and decisively when necessary, particularly in the fast-paced field of AI.

Balancing regulation and innovation with AIDA

Despite the optimism about AIDA, there are genuine concerns from the industry about its approach, which is viewed as too restrictive on development. As a result, there's a collective call for substantial amendments to the bill. Ideally, the final AIDA would strike a balance—protecting Canadians and curbing the misuse of this disruptive technology, while also giving companies room to develop new products and services.

Future-proofing tech governance in Canada

Given the rapidly evolving nature of technology, the industry leaders highlight the need for a dedicated parliamentary science and technology officer. This role would ensure that Canada doesn't find itself back at square one in a few years due to technology's evolution. Such an officer would lay a strong, trusted foundation for AIDA and future attempts to govern the innovation economy, preventing the government's model from becoming too controversial or unwieldy.

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