Scotland's key role in developing 'ethical' AI

“The winds of change are fast moving, and together we can steer the ship in the right direction.”

Scotland’s role as a pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI) has been given a major boost with the news that a key trade body is refocusing its presence north of the Border in support of the nation’s strategy in this field, in a move spearheaded by a veteran of the Scottish tech sector taking a senior leadership role.

The Data & Marketing Association (DMA UK), which says it represents progressive data-driven marketers, has unveiled the reassertion of its presence in Scotland, which it says it underpinned by promoting Anneli Ritari-Stewart to chair of its significant DMA Scotland arm from deputy chair.

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And the businesswoman, who is also mutual life, pensions, and investment firm Royal London’s head of digital marketing and generative AI lead for marketing, has set out her vision for championing the responsible and ethical use of AI to drive growth and innovation in Scottish marketing, in line with Scotland’s AI strategy.

'The culture around AI is changing at an electric pace,' says Ritari-Stewart. Picture: contributed.'The culture around AI is changing at an electric pace,' says Ritari-Stewart. Picture: contributed.
'The culture around AI is changing at an electric pace,' says Ritari-Stewart. Picture: contributed.

The latter was published in 2021, aiming to encourage collaboration to accelerate AI activity, and set a clear direction of travel aligning AI with other strategic initiatives, all the while looking “beyond the technology itself to focus more closely on AI’s role in our society”.

Ritari-Stewart said she will execute her vision for DMA Scotland’s community and support Scotland's AI ambitions by encouraging marketers to harness AI’s potential as a “superpower” to drive innovation, best practice, and business growth.

However, the executive (whose previous roles include MD of digital marketing agency iProspect and non-executive director of FinTech Scotland) has also warned that a trustworthy and customer-centric approach must be followed for businesses and their customers to see the true benefits, as the culture around the technology continues to change “at an electric pace”.

The news comes as Scotland’s AI status gains momentum, with significant academic muscle, and firms operating in the sector fundraising and hiring. A recent survey by KPMG found that about three in ten senior leaders in the financial services sector in Scotland use generative AI at least once a day at work, and more broadly encouraged business leaders to “continue to get to grips with” such technology (which includes ChatGPT) to boost their firms’ long-term productivity, growth, and competitiveness”. Scotland is also vying to be the data capital of Europe.

DMA MD Rachel Aldighieri says: 'With Anneli’s appointment, the DMA is refocusing its presence in Scotland at a time of transformation and opportunity.' Picture: contributed.DMA MD Rachel Aldighieri says: 'With Anneli’s appointment, the DMA is refocusing its presence in Scotland at a time of transformation and opportunity.' Picture: contributed.
DMA MD Rachel Aldighieri says: 'With Anneli’s appointment, the DMA is refocusing its presence in Scotland at a time of transformation and opportunity.' Picture: contributed.

Swedish-born Ritari-Stewart, who is also part of Royal London’s AI Working Group and is scaling the use of generative AI ethically, was on the DMA council for four years before becoming deputy chair of DMA Scotland in 2022, during which time she is credited with having been actively involved in delivering value to the organisation’s Scottish members and fuelling regional industry growth.

Taking the Scottish chair hotseat from incumbent Howard Barber, Ritari-Stewart aims to deliver on her vision to equip professional marketers with the knowledge and confidence to adopt emerging technologies, in particular encouraging curiosity around AI and its effective application.

She said: “Scotland represents a truly unique and exciting opportunity to drive the ethical use of AI forward. I believe marketers can harness the technology as a superpower – but stakeholder trust, customer-centric approaches, and regulatory collaboration must be achieved. The culture around AI is changing at an electric pace; we need to encourage curiosity, winning the hearts and minds of the professionals who will use AI, and the customers who stand to benefit.”

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The businesswoman – who is also a champion powerlifter, a discipline she has said requires an “expert led, data-driven and meticulous approach to training” – continued by saying: "I’m thrilled to lead the DMA’s charge in Scotland at a crucial time for shaping the future of technology and data-driven marketing. The winds of change are fast moving, and together we can steer the ship in the right direction.”

The DMA says it champions the trustworthy, ethical, and inclusive use of AI. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.The DMA says it champions the trustworthy, ethical, and inclusive use of AI. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.
The DMA says it champions the trustworthy, ethical, and inclusive use of AI. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto.

Also commenting was Steph Wright, head of the Scottish AI Alliance, a partnership between The Data Lab and the Scottish Government that is tasked with the delivery of the vision outlined in Scotland’s AI Strategy in an open, transparent and collaborative way.

Wright said: “We welcome DMA UK’s refocus in support of Scotland’s AI Strategy, and its vision for Scotland to become a leader in trustworthy, ethical and inclusive AI. Commitments from organisations like the DMA to the vision is absolutely key to ensuring that Scotland’s AI future is responsible and equitable to all, and we look forward to exploring how we can work together to achieve this.”

The DMA Scotland says it works closely with Scottish government, academia, and businesses to build the foundations for Scotland to be a world leader in responsible and ethical data practices, and will now focus on supporting Scotland's AI Strategy by championing the trustworthy, ethical, and inclusive use of AI, with Ritari-Stewart pivotal in helping businesses understand and adhere to this framework through alignment with the DMA Code and AI principles.

DMA MD Rachel Aldighieri – who has previously stressed the importance of showcasing AI's ethical integrity, said: “With Anneli’s appointment, the DMA is refocusing its presence in Scotland at a time of transformation and opportunity. [Ritari-Stewart’s] expertise and enthusiasm for the creative, innovative and ethical application of AI will bring together industry, academia, and the government to ensure that AI empowers marketers, truly acting as a force for good for businesses and society and accelerating growth within the Scottish economy.

"With its clear and deliberated AI strategy and ambition to be the data capital of Europe, Scotland has the opportunity to become a global forerunner for the way AI is successfully and responsibly applied.”

DMA Scotland will host an inaugural AI event in Edinburgh on June 25, which will see Ritari-Stewart set out her vision as DMA Scotland’s new chair, supported by expert insights from organisations including Multiply Agency, The Data Lab, Scottish AI Alliance, Royal London, Whyte & Mackay, and Visit Scotland. The businesswoman previously said she wanted “to continue to develop as a leader”.

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