SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) today announced its guiding principles for artificial intelligence (AI) and its creation of an external AI ethics advisory panel – the first European technology company to do so. The panel, comprised of experts from academia, politics and industry, will ensure the adoption of the principles and further develop them in collaboration with the AI steering committee at SAP, a group of SAP executives from development, strategy and human resources. The new guidelines, the external panel and the internal committee aim to ensure that the AI capabilities supported by SAP Leonardo Machine Learning capabilities are used to maintain integrity and trust in all solutions. As the market leader in enterprise technology that touches 77 percent of the world's transaction revenue and serves more than 400,000 customers worldwide, SAP solutions and applications impact the lives of billions of people daily. "SAP considers the ethical use of data a core value," said Luka Mucic, chief financial officer and member of the Executive Board of SAP Se. "We want to create software that enables the intelligent enterprise and actually improves people's lives.
SAP has become the first European technology company to create an external artificial intelligence (AI) ethics advisory panel, with representatives from academia, politics and industry. The panel will ensure the adoption of the new AI guiding principles also announced by the vendor in collaboration with the AI steering committee at SAP, a group of SAP executives from development, strategy and human resources. "SAP considers the ethical use of data a core value," said Luka Mucic, chief financial officer and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE. "We want to create software that enables the intelligent enterprise and actually improves people's lives. Such principles will serve as the basis to make AI a technology that augments human talent." SAP's guiding principles highlight core values around transparency, integrity, quality and safety in the use of AI.
The AI revolution has the promise to unlock boundless potential for businesses: from better products and services, to faster innovation and unimaginable leaps in productivity. But, like all great technological advancements, AI also has the potential to create numerous economic, political and social challenges, depending upon how it is used and implemented. Because of that, the use of AI technology needs to be governed by clear rules of ethics -- defined at the outset of this new era, instead of later on, when abuses or ill-considered practices could be far more difficult to control. This is not the first time society has been at a crossroads where we face new technological powers that can serve great and worthy purposes or be abused to support some very bad ones. Yet one thing is clear and remains in our power: artificial intelligence, will never substitute for human wisdom or moral responsibility.
SAP has created an AI ethics panel to guide its use of machine-learning technology. If only it had a similar committee for fraud allegations: it might have avoided the corruption scandal engulfing it in South Africa. The German ERP giant – which is accused of kicking back $2m to secure state contracts – claimed it is the first European biz to create a external artificial intelligence ethics board: a five-person committee that includes technical experts and specialists in public policy, ethics, and bioethics. However, while several of them possess solid IT credentials, there's no one with a background in AI. Rather, expertise in the evolving field will come from inside SAP.
While SAP is a front runner among global companies addressing the ethics around artificial intelligence (AI), there is still plenty to learn. In September 2018, SAP released guidelines for the ethical use of AI, which declare, for instance, that AI built by SAP shall be human centered, guarantee transparency, and keep data secure. While SAP was the first company in Europe to put such initiatives in place, many other large enterprises, including Microsoft and IBM, have taken similar steps toward ethical AI. With no globally recognized norms or policies in place yet, SAP has emerged as a leading voice in the global conversation. Noga explains the mandate he sees for SAP: "Not only should our own AI be subject to ethical requirements, but we also want to help our customers to build and use AI ethically. Moreover, we aim to contribute our expertise to the discussions taking place at a global level."