AI can transform the sector

Artificial intelligence

Neil Collington examines the benefits and risks of embracing new technology 

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18th February 2020 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

This will be Zurich’s third year at The Gathering, which showcases the expertise, diversity and strength of Scotland’s third sector. This year alongside colleagues I will be hosting the Zurich Municipal stand within the market place, giving us opportunity to engage with our customers, peers and industry friends. 

We are excited to be hosting our own Robots and Risk Workshop which will give attendees deeper insights into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence, the risks, the rewards and how you and your organisation can manage them. 

Looking at the benefits, AI and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies (such as robotic process automation) are helping charities engage more effectively with their donor bases. Examples of this include AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants; many of the UK’s larger and more established charities have already taken steps in this area. The Children’s Society has trialled a chatbot application on its Facebook page to answer fundraising questions, while Arthritis Research UK has a virtual personal assistant.

And it is not just behind the scenes that AI could potentially reshape the way services are delivered. AI-powered virtual assistants could also play an important role – for example as life-aids for individuals with physical disabilities, or voice-based assistants providing guidance and advice to those dealing with homelessness or older people living alone.

Neil Collington

Neil Collington

At Zurich we certainly recognise that the workplace is in transition and this is fundamentally changing the nature of roles - as in other industries.  Many jobs will be augmented/enhanced with technology while brand new job families will be created.  We began our own automation journey four years ago and since then we’ve introduced over 50 processes in claims, underwriting, our life business and human resources – where we’ve built robotic processes to speed up routine administrative tasks. 

While there are wide-ranging benefits, charities also need to be aware of the potential risks when embracing new technology including AI. One of the key challenges, is trust. Charities need to be clear about what kind of data they are collecting in order to power this automation and how it will be used. The public must also have confidence their data is being looked after properly as this will directly correlate with how willing people are to accept the advances charities want to make with AI.  

Likewise, under GDPR, organisations must be able to explain how they reach certain algorithmic-based decisions about their customers or service users. In order to meet this duty, it is important that charities are able to explain the workings of any AI they deploy, and that there is transparency.

We’ve recently published a new report, Artificial intelligence in the Public Sector, which takes an in-depth look at the ethical and governance challenges associated with AI. It also provides clear, practical guidance to help organisations, including charities, understand the questions they should be asking when embarking on AI projects.

We look forward to meeting as many customers and colleagues as possible at The Gathering.  Every day I spend working within the third sector, I learn more about the vital role organisations play in delivering key services across health and social care, supporting the vulnerable and helping to shape public policy for the benefit of everyone.

Neil Collington is risk and insurance consultant at Zurich. Robots and Risk takes place on Wednesday 19 February in the Alsh Suite. Zurich can be found at stand 42 at The Gathering.