Put ‘public good’ at heart of AI and new tech, Starmer to say

The Labour leader will offer his own vision for how to address fast-paced technological changes at a tech conference on Tuesday.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and other new technologies could worsen inequality and leave some communities poorer than before if not used for the “public good”, Sir Keir Starmer is set to warn.

The Labour leader, who will offer his own vision for how to address fast-paced technological changes at a tech conference on Tuesday, is also expected to question whether the Prime Minister is actually doing enough to make the UK a world leader in AI.

Sir Keir, whose appearance at the London Tech Week conference follows Rishi Sunak’s own speech on Monday, will raise the legacy of the de-industrialisation of recent decades to warn that the same mistakes cannot be made again as technology advances.

The Labour leader is expected to argue that while the UK has a unique opportunity to lead the world in this area, it will require partnerships with business for the “public good”.

He will say: “Our country is facing a choice about who benefits from the huge disruption that tech will bring.

“Will it be those who already hold wealth and power, or will it be the starter firms trying to break in and disrupt the industry, the patients trying to book an appointment with their GP, the worker using technology to enhance and improve their role.”

Sir Keir will argue that despite the UK’s success in science and research, a lack of certainty from the Conservatives and a missing industrial strategy are ensuring that the country’s advantages are being wasted.

Discussing AI, he is also expected to say: “The question facing our country is who will benefit from this disruption? Will it leave some behind, as happened with de-industrialisation across vast swathes of our country?

“Or can it help build a society where everyone is included, and inequalities are narrowed not widened?”

“This moment calls for Labour values, of working in partnership with business, driving technology to the public good, and ensuring people and places aren’t left behind.

“Labour would take a whole-economy approach, recognising that tech is not just a sector, but every job and every business must become digital if we are to address the UK’s productivity problem.

“Diffusing the latest technology across our economy and public services will be as important as supporting the latest unicorns.”

Keir Starmer speech
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will tell a tech industry audience that Labour would make harnessing new technologies central to government policy (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Sir Keir will tell the tech industry audience that Labour would make the harnessing of new technologies central to government.

“I will harness technology as the great accelerator of our five missions for Government, working in partnership with business to face the future and deliver growth, prosperity and opportunity across the UK,” he will say.

“We will form a new agenda on digital skills, through our ‘growth and skills’ levy to ensure people are equipped for the jobs of the future.

“Labour’s industrial strategy, combined with good regulation, will secure and create good jobs, and responsible and ethical development of new technology.”

Mr Sunak has long been enthusiastic about the opportunities of AI and wants the UK to be home to a global AI regulator.

Promoting his planned major summit on the issue in the autumn, Mr Sunak on Monday also warned measures are needed to protect against the “extreme risks” AI could pose.

But Labour has accused the Government of already being behind and its white paper on AI already out of date.

“I do say to him, it’s all very well having these ambitions, but if they’re not matched with actions at home, we won’t have credibility on the world stage,” Mr Starmer will say.

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