University of Technology Sydney: Edward Santow to lead UTS AI ethics initiative

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

Mr Santow will lead a major UTS initiative to build Australia’s strategic capability in artificial intelligence (AI) and new technology. This initiative will support Australian business and government to be leaders in responsible innovation—by developing and using AI that is powerful, effective and fair.

The initiative will provide three main types of training:

Bespoke leadership development: to develop effective AI strategy for senior government and private sector leaders
Targeted training in AI-exposed sectors: to build the understanding of key employees in sectors, such as financial services, where there is high investment in AI, to support good decisions regarding development, procurement and use of AI
General workplace training: to build the understanding of employees in all sectors how AI is relevant to their work.
“UTS is developing a strong reputation in the field of ethics and AI,” said UTS Vice-Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs. “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,” he said..

“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 Mr Santow will be situated.

Mr Santow brings an impressive portfolio of experience to his new role. As Human Rights Commissioner, he led the most influential project worldwide 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 leading non-profit organisation that promotes human rights through strategic litigation, policy development and education. Mr Santow 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,” Mr 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 here and abroad 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. UTS looks forward to contributing to this important nation-building goal.

Ed Santow starts at UTS as Industry Professor – Responsible Technology on 1 September 2021, after concluding his term as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner at the end of July.