Partnership on AI expands but still snubs telcos

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The worst named lobby group in the telco and tech space, Partnership on AI, has announced a host of new member, but the telcos still haven’t been invited.

The group was initially founded back in September by Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Google and Amazon, before Apple was shoehorned in a couple of weeks later as a ‘Founding Member’, and it does look like a useful little group. Many industry collaborations of this nature are thin veils to drive commercial ambitions, however if the group does stay true to its initial ambitions of dealing with the social impacts of artificial intelligence, it would be a welcome break from the cash-hungry PR exercises which we’ve just become used to.

In terms of the tech companies who are joining the partner, eBay, Intel, McKinsey & Company, Salesforce, SAP, Sony, and Zalando, along with start-up Cogitai, are the privileged few. There are also a host of non-profit partners and thought-leadership groups which will also join, but there are too many to mention for the moment.

Currently, Partnership on AI will focus on the following pillars:

  • Safety critical AI: Decision making from the AI-driven applications needs to safe, trustworthy, and aligned with the ethics and preferences of people who are influenced by their actions
  • Fair, explainable, and accountable AI systems
  • The design of systems that augment the perception, cognition, and problem-solving abilities of people
  • Ensuring AI does not inadvertently or deliberately manipulate people and influence opinions in a way which would be deemed negative

Of note is a lack of telco representation in the group. Despite the intentions of the operators in creating AI solutions for the world, it would appear the tech clique does not deem them in high enough regard to contribute to some of the more defining topics of the digital era. Here, we’re not just talking about the operators but also the likes of Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia, as well as smaller vendors who are traditionally associated with the telco industry. It’s snub, and perhaps representative of the wider opinion on innovation in the telco space.

We’re not saying telco representatives should be automatically entitled to an invite, but considering the importance of communications infrastructure in the digital economy, it does seem like a bit of an oversight.

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