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Canada “AIMS” to raise the bar for AI development and use through standardization

SCC | Nov 10, 2020

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Artificial Intelligence is a moving target when it comes to standardization. AI is progressing at a breakneck speed and expanding its reach worldwide as it becomes broadly incorporated into products and services. Virtually any emerging technology requires standards to provide the foundation for safety, performance, and interoperability, but AI has additional opportunities and threats associated with its use calling immediately for standards to be set.

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AI is a particularly complex technology since it can be used for information gathering, analysis, decision-making, and automation, and users are often unaware AI is driving it. For example, algorithms execute AI-based advertising on platforms like Facebook, targeting users according to their past and predicted-future behaviour. These systems do not automatically consider issues such as bias, discrimination, ethics, privacy, and human health and safety when they direct users to information or offer solutions.

The Canadian Mirror Committee to JTC 1/SC 42 Artificial Intelligence “AIMS” to help. The committee has successfully advanced a project proposal for the first conformity assessment standard for AI at ISO/IEC, having garnered unanimous international support in the ballot. The Artificial Intelligence Management System (AIMS) standard will enable organizations to show they have implemented and continually work on improving processes unique to the development or use of AI, such as bias, fairness, inclusiveness, safety, security, privacy, accountability, explicability, and transparency.

“Management system standards have been used in many different sectors to help innovation and technology develop through structured governance and appropriate risk management,” said Paul Cotton, Convenor of the Working Group 1. “One such example is the ISO 27001 for cybersecurity, which is currently used as part of the CyberSecure Program in Canada.”

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“Having a standardized management system for AI is essential,” says Marta Janczarski, Standards Council of Canada (SCC) AI Sector Specialist and project editor for the AIMS standard. “Within our Innovation Initiative at SCC, we see firsthand incredible advances in technology and the wide-reaching applications possible for AI. But with that comes an innate responsibility to protect citizens from the dangers as well and providing standardized requirements and a means to demonstrate compliance is the best way to achieve this.”

AIMS will increase interoperability, harmonize requirements, increase trust in AI systems and ensure continual improvement through the standards development process that relies on balanced stakeholder representation, consensus, and public scrutiny as technology progresses. The full complement of a standard and associated conformity assessment program will give stakeholders confidence in an organization’s ability to consistently meet customer requirements, and any applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

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SCC | Oct 30, 2020

When One Size Does Not Protect All: Understanding Why Gender Matters for Standardization

As twhy gender matters in standards - Canada “AIMS” to raise the bar for AI development and use through standardizationhe first woman CEO at the Standards Council of Canada, and also a professional Engineer, Chantal Guay is a role model. Chantal’s leadership has brought forward an emphasis on gender equality and has inspired SCC to take tangible action.

As part of our work to improve gender equality, SCC has done a cross-country analysis, using data from 106 countries, of the impact of gender on standardization. This ground-breaking research is captured in SCC’s new report When One Size Does Not Protect All: Understanding Why Gender Matters for Standardization. SCC’s research is gaining worldwide recognition. Understanding how standardization impacts women is essential to doing something about it.

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SCC’s research, outlined in the report, shows that countries which are more involved in standardization experience fewer unintentional male deaths. As a country’s participation in standardization increases, the number of men who die as a result of unintentional injuries decreases. When the analysis was repeated to determine the impact of participation in standardization on the number of unintentional female deaths, there was no impact. Unlike for men, increasing participation in standardization is not associated with a decline in the number of women who die as a result of unintentional injuries. Standards are not protecting women as well as they protect men. Unfortunately, this is perhaps not that surprising of a finding considering that throughout the pandemic we have heard reports of female health care workers being at a greater risk of contracting COVID because of ill-fitting Personal Protective Equipment. Research has shown that the risk of being injured or killed in a car accident is 73% greater for women because crash test dummies are based on male anthropometry.

The failure of many standards to account for women may boil down to two inter-related factors: the lack of female representation in the development of standards and the lack of gender expertise in standards development. Here in Canada, SCC’s preliminary research shows that only 2% of our national standards contribute to SDG 5 – the UN’s gender equality goal. We are working hard to change this.

What is SCC doing?

In 2019, SCC became one of the first national standards organizations to publish a five-year strategy to improve gender equality in standards aligned with the United Nations Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards.

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Since then, we have been striving to establish a standardization system that is inclusive and equal, regardless of gender.
Recognizing the importance of considering gender in standards development, SCC – along with other national standards bodies, standards development organizations and international organizations – has signed the UNECE Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development. Additionally, SCC’s gender strategy emphasizes:

  • Increasing the participation of women on technical committees;
  • Building gender expertise into the standards development process; and
  • Conducting sound research into the impact of gender on standardization.

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