Huge Technology Investment is Not Short of Critics

Author:
Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD

Date
09/03/2019

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As well as writing about technology, I try to keep up with the latest news from the sector. Personally, I’m more interested in the technology itself, rather than the business side of things, but I also try keep up with that side when I can. This month, one article caught my eye, in fact it made me do a double take. The article was in The Register, and if you don’t know the site itself, it’s an irreverent take on the tech world. The story focussed on the UK government’s recent announcement it was investing £250 million into the NHS for AI research.

AI will be at the heart of medicine in the future. Most developed countries have both a shortage of doctors and an ageing population. In the not so distant future, AI will help take the pressure off doctors by taking care of tasks, such as performing diagnostic functions and assisting in operations. We are currently at the start of that journey and the time when AI takes over some of a doctor’s responsibilities may not be too far away, so it makes sense for the NHS, which cares for over 60 million people, to be involved in AI from the beginning.

The reason I did a double take at the Register article was that medical professionals were slamming the investment. There is an argument that the cash may be needed more urgently elsewhere in the NHS, but investment in AI today could prove cheaper than buying solutions from others in the future. There’s no doubt that the NHS has been underfunded since the global financial crisis in 2008, and if politician’s promises are to believed, then there is more money in the pipeline for general medical use. That’s no real excuse to stop looking forward and trying to be at the forefront of future advances.

Whether the government does end up making the investment or not, it does open up the question of what would be the UK’s science strategy after Brexit – if it ever happens. Both the country’s main rivals have very different science strategies. The EU has a collaborative approach, with the organisation funding universities, institutes and businesses to work together to solve problems. The US takes a more direct approach between businesses and academia. The NHS AI project may just be a preview of how the government sees the UK’s future science and technology strategy.

If you are interested in the article, you can read it here:

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/08/12/medical_professionals_pour_cold_water_on_gov_250m_ai_plan/

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