Ed Santow to lead UTS's responsible tech initiative


Tuesday, 20 July, 2021


Ed Santow to lead UTS's responsible tech initiative

Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, Edward Santow, will take up a new position at the University of Technology Sydney as Industry Professor – Responsible Technology, starting 1 September 2021.

Santow will lead a major UTS initiative to build Australia’s strategic capability in artificial intelligence (AI) and new technology, aimed at supporting businesses and government in responsible innovation — by developing and using AI that is powerful, effective and fair.

The initiative will provide three main types of training: leadership development for senior government and private sector leaders; targeted training in AI-exposed sectors, such as financial services; and general workplace training.

UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs said, “Ed represents the kind of multifaceted approach UTS can bring to AI education. His work aligns with UTS’s strategic vision to be a leading public university of technology, recognised for our global impact and our ambitious social justice goals.”

“At this point in history, universities need to be leading the conversation around technology and the public good, and in particular what responsible and ethical leadership of technology looks like,” said Verity Firth, Executive Director at the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, where Santow will be situated.

As Human Rights Commissioner, Santow led the project on the human rights and social implications of AI, in which UTS was the official university partner. Before that he was chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a non-profit organisation. He was also previously a senior lecturer at UNSW Law School, a research director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law and a solicitor in private practice.

“I am excited to work with UTS’s world-class experts on a defining challenge of our time: to ensure that the AI we increasingly rely on gives us the future we want and need, not one we fear,” Santow said.

AI use, by government and the private sector, is growing exponentially. According to consulting group McKinsey & Company, half of all businesses globally are using AI in at least one function. If Australia makes the most of the enormous transformation being fuelled by automation and AI, it could boost Australia’s economy by $2.2 trillion, according to AlphaBeta.

But where AI is used poorly, there can be terrible consequences — especially for our human rights. Algorithms that make it harder for women and people of colour to get a home loan or a job, and experiences such as ‘Robodebt’, reduce public trust in AI and in anyone who deploys this new technology.

Consumers are demanding more from governments and companies that use AI. This presents an opportunity for Australia to lead in responsible innovation — by investing in the skills and expertise that will enable us to develop and use AI that is powerful, accurate and ‘bakes in’ protections for our basic rights, said UTS in a statement.

Image credit: UTS.

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