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Orange launches charter for inclusive AI

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The International Charter for inclusive Artificial Intelligence aims to ensure the responsible design, deployment and operation of artificial intelligence (AI).

Orange has launched the Charter with gender equality organisation Arborus. It is based on seven commitments, including promoting diversity in teams working on AI-based solutions and ensuring that data is unified, consistent, verified and traceable.

The first signatories are Orange, Camfil, Danone, EDF, L’Oréal, Metro and Sodexo and the charter is now open for other companies to join.

Amplifying bias

There have been well-publicised examples of the unconscious bias built into AI, resulting in discriminatry processes regarding their credit worthiness and in recruitment, for example, which have potentially profound effects on women's lives and their families.

In 2019, Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs, automatically offered some women up to 20 times lower credit limits than men when their circumstances were identical, which even drew criticism from Apple's co-founder, Steve Wozniak.

In 2018, women were excluded from some tech posts at Amazon as an experimental AI-powered recruiting engine excluded women based on how few of them worked in certain functions (from which it wrongly deduced women were not suitable), not individuals’ qualifications and experience.

Women constitute 36% of university graduates in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) disciplines but only 25% of the STEM workforce and 9% of STEM executive leadership.

The World Economic Forum put the cost of gender discrimination for the global economy at $130 trillion.

Vigilance

Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière (pictured), Deputy Chief Executive of Orange in France and head of the Technology and Global Innovation Division, said, “AI at the service of people is a formidable tool for simplifying operations and reducing the digital divide. But we must remain vigilant so that it does not create new inequalities, particularly between men and women.

"This is what underpins Orange’s commitment to Arborus. We are proud to be the first signatory of the International Charter for inclusive AI and we hope that many other companies will join us in this venture.”

Cédric O, French Secretary of State for the Digital Sector, attached to the Minister of Economy and Finance and the Minister of Public Action and Accounts, is supporting the initiative and said: “Artificial intelligence is taking on an increasingly important role in our society, which will need time to recover after the current health crisis.

"We need to be vigilant in order to ensure that automatic decisions based on the processing of algorithms do not discriminate against women due, for example, to the quality of the data used or the design of the code, a field still dominated by men.

“We must therefore encourage companies to ensure neutral AI development with initiatives such as the International Charter for inclusive AI.”

Orange and Arborus say the charter is the first step towards the creation of a Gender Equality European & International Standard (GEEIS), a benchmark operated by Arborus.

Strategy

Orange said that data and AI are central to its Engage 2025 strategy, announced in December. This includes areas such as customer experience, smarter networks and greater operating efficiency. The strategy notes, “Our ambition is as strong as our social commitments are firm. And we will never think of one without the other.”