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Maria Luciana Axente: the safety and protection of children comes first

Maria Luciana Axente, speaker at the conference of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) “Humans in Charge – Steering the AI Age Responsibly”, is a Senior Research Associate at the University of Cambridge Interdisciplinary Research Centre where she focuses on responsible artificial intelligence and AI for good lead. Maria Axente is a world-renowned expert on AI ethics and a passionate advocate for children’s rights. She is a member of the management of several international professional organisations, such as the UNICEF AI for Children advisory group and the World Economic Forum’s Generation AI Programs.

Maria Luciana Axente entitled her presentation “Raising children in the age of AI”. The theme of the keynote speech is in fact very close to one of the priority activities of the NMHH, the host of the conference, namely, child protection in the digital age.

New opportunities with the use of artificial intelligence

“How will a digital world look like that is powered by artificial intelligence, a technology that promises to bring huge benefits to all of us, individuals and society?” the speaker asked. We do know that AI can make a difference in education providing our children with content and knowledge that is tailored to their abilities and talents.

AI can also help our children explore new and uncharted territories. Likewise, there is a great future for the use of AI in medicine to have healthier and happier children thanks to customised health plans.

The world has gone digital – but what about our children?

Children and parents now live in a drastically different world. “How many of us marvel at our children sitting in front of their devices instead of talking to each other or to us?” asked the question Maria Axente.

We have a digital world where our children spend most of their time, and parents struggle to understand how their children live in this world. How can they protect their children from the new risks and dangers that may emerge in the digital world, such as artificial intelligence? No matter how they have brought up their children, a new dilemma for parents is how to use AI in a way that allows children to understand their own needs, rights and expectations.

The fact that AI has a dark side was brought to our attention years ago. We have read, seen and heard many stories in the media about AI taking our jobs and robots taking over the world, but we have no tangible means of demonstrating the risks and potential harms this will entail. But the fact is that AI narrows human interaction, which can clearly be harmful to our children’s development. And the emergence and spread of generative artificial intelligence could further increase the risks just mentioned.

Initiatives to keep children safe

Years ago, no one was talking about the relationship between children and artificial intelligence. In the meantime, a number of specific questions have arisen that need to be answered:

What are the main effects to look out for? How should these be integrated into the design?

How can solutions be applied in the most efficient way?

In order to answer the questions raised, Maria Axente and her colleagues drew up an article focusing on the above questions. This led UNICEF to launch the “AI for Children” initiative.

The World Economic Forum then took up the issue and brought together experts from around the world – all for the sake of children’s safety.

The resulting guidance inspires policymakers around the world and gives them direction on how to approach integration in addressing children’s needs.

This speaker

Maria Luciana Axente

Responsible AI & AI for Good Lead, PwC UK

Maria is an Intellectual Forum Senior Research Associate.

She is a globally recognised, award winning AI ethics expert and public policy contributor.

She is a member of various Advisory Boards – UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on AI  (APPG AI) ,ORBIT & SKEMA AI Institute, Vice Chair of techUK Data and AI leadership committee and member of BSI/ISO & IEEE AI standard groups.

More speakers

Speeches

Brando Benifei, Italian Member of the European Parliament and co-rapporteur of the EU’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, spoke live via video link to the conference participants. He said that the title of the NMHH conference “Humans in Charge – Steering the AI Age Responsibly” encapsulated perfectly what they wanted to achieve with the new Community legislation: a set of human-centred rules that allow strong human oversight, minimise risks and promote the reaping of the benefits.
The President of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, emphasized the need for collaboration among researchers, developers, and decision-makers for ethical AI development and usage. While AI has great potential to enhance life quality and human efficiency, it also poses significant challenges, particularly with deepfake technologies eroding faith in digital reality. Koltay called for further exploration of the AI's legal implications, data protection, and vital ethical standards.
Italian researcher and AI4GOV founder Gianluca Misuraca spoke at the "Humans in Charge" conference on AI governance and the vital role of the public sector. He emphasized the importance of managing AI's potential benefits and risks for public services and society. Misuraca noted government's role as AI regulator, user and facilitator, and highlighted the challenge of adopting AI in public services while protecting citizens, especially under uncertain outcomes. He also stressed the need to prepare the workforce for increased AI use.
Prof. Dr. Olívia J. Erdélyi addressed the issue of AI regulation at the "Humans in Charge" conference, noting its current inconsistencies and suggesting the adoption of a risk-based approach like the EU's in the formulation of AI governance. She emphasized the importance of using consistent, scientific terminologies and developing regulations that technical staffs can accurately implement. Erdélyi also suggested AI governance could either be handled by a dedicated regulatory authority or multiple specialized agencies, provided there is coordination and expertise in AI and machine learning.
As Data & AI Lead for Public Sector & Health at Microsoft Spain, he highlighted the need for collaboration between government and private sector in managing AI. He emphasised the transformative potential of AI. Sanchez underscored the importance of a cautious yet optimistic approach, referencing Microsoft's own AI regulation framework. He referenced Spain's progressive national AI strategy and the potential for other EU countries like Hungary to adopt the AI Sandbox model.
At the "Humans in Charge - Steering the AI Age Responsibly" conference, George Tilesch, international expert and PHI Institute for Augmented Intelligence's founding president, emphasized on the convergence of technology, regulation and social inclusion in anticipation of AI Act's implementation. He expressed the vital need for proactive planning and hoped the conference’s insightful discussions would help Hungary prepare for its upcoming EU presidency.

Panel discussions

The panel discussion on 'Responsible AI in Digital Platforms, Telco & Media' focused on AI's role in these sectors and exploring strategies, challenges, and regulatory compliance. The panel comprised experts from Microsoft Spain, PHI Institute for Augmented Intelligence, OpenAI and T-Systems International.
The panelsists – who are internationally renowned AI experts – discussed AI's power as a constructive force but also potential threats and risks. The main focus was on creating awareness regarding AI safety and security, protecting vulnerable populations, particularly the youth, and the role of institutions and defense against AI misuse.
The world is nearing consensus on ethical AI, presaged by the anticipated EU AI Act. Questions of creating norms, operationalizing them, and establishing governance structures are central. Leaders are expected to understand AI policy, ethics, and communicate its implications effectively.
The fourth panel discusses AI-infused government services as a key area for AI introduction in society. Questions revolve around EU political readiness for AI, creating trustworthy AI environments, the role of AI sandboxes, and partnerships between public authorities and AI leaders. The participating panel experts hail from a diverse array of AI-related fields.

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