The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) is set to host a new $71.1 million research centre to investigate responsible, ethical and inclusive automated decision making technologies for use in the public and private sectors.
Education Minister Dan Tehan on Wednesday announced the government will provide $31.8 million to the new Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-making and Society.
RMIT vice-chancellor and president Martin Bean said the significant investment will focus on improving the quality of life for communities in the face of constant technological change.
Led by media and internet researcher at RMIT, Professor Julian Thomas, the centre will receive an additional $39.3 million in funding and in-kind support from partner institutions, including seven Australian Universities, Google Australia, Volvo, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and a number of other international industrial and research partners.
Research from the centre will be used to inform public policy and procedures, shape debate on the automated decision making technology, and train future researchers and practitioners in the field.
“New systems offer enormous benefits in many areas but they also pose substantial risks to our privacy and security, and to our welfare as citizens and consumers,” Thomas said.
“We urgently need a much deeper understanding of the potential risks of the new technologies, and the best strategies for mitigating these risks.
“Working with international partners and industry, the research will help Australians gain the full benefits of these new technologies, from better mobility, to improving our responses to humanitarian emergencies.”
Tehan said that machines that can make decisions without human involvement are already common-place in areas like self-driving cars, or algorithms used to inform business decisions and medical diagnoses.
“This technology has great potential to transform the efficiency of industry, as well as public and private services, however, as with all technology, it is prudent to explore how to mitigate any possible risks,” he said
“Our government is funding research into automated decision making to ensure this technology provides the best possible outcomes for society and industry.”
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews added that, as with all emerging technologies with broad-ranging impacts, “it’s important that we get the settings right”.
Andrews, while acknowledging fears that automation in its many forms sparks fears of job losses, also said that researching and embracing these technologies early on can contribute positively to the economy and be a source of new jobs.