Google building AI principles, focusing on diversity to address bias in algorithm

The search giant is collaborating with academic communities globally to stem the unconscious bias, said Scott Beaumont, President - Asia Pacific, Google, on day 3 of TechSparks 2021.
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Google is developing a set of artificial intelligence (AI) principles and focusing on diversity in its technology teams to address the unconscious bias in its algorithm, said Scott Beaumont, President - Asia Pacific, Google, on day 3 of TechSparks 2021, India's most influential startup-tech conference hosted by YourStory.

With the theme 'What's Next: Rethinking the future', TechSparks 2021 is providing a platform for the most defining conversations on how disruptive technology innovations can shape our lives post-pandemic. To this end, it has brought together more than 400 global leaders, technology startups, large enterprises, and thought leaders from the global innovation ecosystem who are rethinking the future to enable what’s next.

“We are trying to ensure we build a team which is diversified in different ways — including geography, background — and collaborate with academic communities globally to catch the unconscious bias,” Scott told Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory Media, on Wednesday.

Scott equated the use of internet today to the use of electricity when it was invented, which improved daily life, but did not have checks to make it safe for users. While technology’s impact on everyday life has been overwhelmingly positive, there is a responsibility to address non-ideal behaviour, he noted.

“In the midst of well-intentioned regulation, there is a benefit of looking at the big picture: are we doing enough to explain to the end users what is the use-case for collecting their data?” Scott said.

This has to be done in collaboration with users, industry participants, government bodies, and other partners to ensure that the right answer is not skewed in favour of one or the other, he added.

Google will deepen presence in India

The search-engine giant will continue to grow its local footprint in India to identify new opportunities that can be scaled globally, Scott said.

India is at a tipping point where the elements necessary for local growth — including technology talent and financing — are in place, he noted. The proximity of services being created to its end-user allows for innovative solutions, he added.

“At Google, we have seen it with Google Pay, or the YouTube feature to watch videos offline rolled out in India first when the network wasn’t too strong. It was later rolled out globally. So, it benefits local customers, and leads to new ideas,” Scott said.

Having a strong local presence also helps Google in a highly competitive market, he added. Its deepening local presence is enabled by factors, such as a talent pool with strong STEM background and investments driven by the size of the domestic market, as well as the calibre of entrepreneurs.

Catching them early

The company, headquartered in Mountain View, California, would also like to tap into Indian businesses to capture the growth in digital adoption, Scott said.

Google is doing this through corporate partnerships with startups, by driving online discovery of small and medium businesses, and helping them go digital with its platform, he said. Among the FAANG companies, Facebook and Amazon have been making inroads by digitising Indian businesses through their investments in India.

“With startups we have a number of different touch points where we can help at the early stage of building their business, help them grow domestically, and then with global discovery,” Scott said.

During the pandemic when the offline world was closed, Google worked closely with small business owners to bring them online and provide them with digital skills, Scott said. In the past few years, Google’s focus has been to ensure these businesses are well-versed with the digital tools to survive and thrive.  

The company is ramping up its efforts in building language interface and voice-based search to cater to the new users of the internet.

“Nearly 270 million people came online for the first time in Asia over the last two years. If you look at India alone, we are excited about the smartphone we are building with Jio,” Scott said. While it will solve the problem of access, the company’s search team continues to work on how people interact with search, and how they want to receive the information — as text, images, or videos.


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For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out TechSparks 2021 website.

Edited by Kunal Talgeri

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