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Data analysis and artificial intelligence key industrial strategy missions for Labour

Shadow business secretary announces Labour’s proposed industrial strategy, in which data would take a central role

The use of data would take a central role in a Labour government’s industrial strategy, according to shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds

A council would be set up on a statutory footing to oversee the strategy and ensure it isn’t abandoned at a later date - most likely a reference to the Conservative-led UK government which scrapped its 2018 industrial strategy in March 2021.

The opposition party said if it were to win the next general election, it would make “harnessing data for the public good” a key mission in its industrial strategy.

Reynolds announced Labour’s industrial strategy at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool. “It’s a real industrial strategy – with ambition and the means to achieve it,” he said.

A key part of this, according to Reynolds, is using data. “We will harness data for the public good, ensuring it isn’t just held by corporate gatekeepers, but used to benefit us all,” he said.

In a policy foreword, Reynolds stated: “We also know that economic strength needs partnership. State and market. Business and worker. Bringing together the everyday economy and the technological frontier to transform challenge into opportunities.”

Tweeting from the conference, Chi Onwurah, Labour member of parliament for Newcastle upon Tyne, and shadow minister for science, research and innovation, said a Labour government would “use new capabilities in data analysis and artificial intelligence [AI] to deliver better public services and improve people’s quality of life”.

She added: “We will stand up for the democratic, privacy and security rights of UK citizens.”

Labour plans to ensure its industrial strategy does not get cut later – the fate of recent Conservative industrial strategies – by creating an industrial strategy council and putting it on a statutory footing, according to Reynolds, who added: “This would help end the farce of long-term plans that do not survive the political cycle.”

Labour’s industrial plan states: “AI is already being used to prevent fraud, enable search engines, and develop vaccines and medicines. If we actively shape these technologies for the public good, they have the potential to greatly increase productivity, deliver better public services and improve quality of life for all.”

It warned that without shaping the technologies , there are risks of “accidents, misuse and structural risks such as the entrenchment of inequalities,” adding: “To build public trust, ensuring AI is developed and used safely and responsibly will be crucial.”

The strategy says data transformation has potential for benefiting businesses across the economy. It quoted PwC UK which said UK GDP could be up to 10.3% higher in 2030 as a result of artificial intelligence.

“The UK is well positioned to benefit from transformative AI, and to lead the world on efforts to ensure AI is aligned with the public interest. In 2020, the UK received more private investment into its AI companies than any other countries except China and the USA,” it said.

According to Labour, there are around 1,300 AI companies in London alone.

As well as increasing the use of data, the industrial strategy would attempt to deliver clean power by 2030, the social care of the future, and build a resilient economy.

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