Automation in military operations

Advances in robotics and digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are enabling greater levels of automation across many sectors, including defence. The UK Government expects automation to be crucial to maintain military advantage in the future. In June 2022, the Ministry of Defence published its Defence AI Strategy, which sets out how it plans to adopt and exploit AI; automation was cited as a key application. This POSTnote discusses current and future applications of automation and AI, their impact on militaries and global stability, and the challenges around their development and implementation.

Automation in military operations

Energy consumption of ICT

Information and Communication Technology (ICT), including data centres, communication networks and user devices, accounted for an estimated 4-6% of global electricity use in 2020. Increasing demand for ICT is expected to lead to an increase in global ICT energy use over the next decade. Experts have highlighted ongoing improvements in the energy efficiency of the technology. However, there is limited evidence on the energy use of ICT, and a significant degree of uncertainty in existing estimates. This POSTnote summarises estimates of the energy used across the ICT sector and trends that may affect it. It discusses developments in energy efficiency and issues related to energy reporting and standards.

Energy consumption of ICT

Sharing public sector data

Sharing public sector data can improve public services, facilitate research and innovation, and inform policymaking. However, public sector bodies face challenges when sharing data, both within the public sector and externally. These include cultural and skills barriers, poor data quality, and lack of public trust. Sharing public sector data also raises security and privacy concerns. This POSTnote looks at how public sector data is shared in the UK, discussing the requirements for effective data sharing and the associated benefits, risks, and barriers.

Sharing public sector data
  • POSTnote

    Energy sector digitalisation

    The incorporation of digital technologies in the energy sector can support progress towards key UK objectives such as achieving Net Zero emissions targets. It can also transform current methods of energy generation, transmission, regulation, and trading. This POSTnote presents an overview of key digital technologies and their main applications in the energy sector. It provides an overview of the potential benefits to using these technologies, and recent developments in this area. It describes the role of data in underpinning digital technologies in the sector, and some of the issues raised by its use. It also discusses broader challenges associated with energy sector digitalisation and measures that could help address them, including issues related to technology, regulation, and impact on consumers.

  • POSTnote

    Developing essential digital skills

    Digital skills are increasingly important for day-to-day life, including for communication, accessing services and employment. However, around a fifth of the population do not have essential digital skills for life as defined by the UK Government. While research suggests the number of people with basic digital skills has increased in recent years, concerns remain about those who lack them. Experts have highlighted that digitally excluded people may experience various negative impacts, including poorer health outcomes and social isolation This POSTnote gives an overview of digital skills in the UK, the impact of a lack of digital skills on outcomes in areas such as employment and health, and initiatives in place to improve digital skills.

  • Rapid response

    COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

    There have been large volumes of inaccurate information about COVID-19 circulating since the beginning of the pandemic, including misinformation about vaccinations against the infection. This article looks at the types and sources of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and its public health impact. It also looks at the different approaches being used to fight COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, such as social media content moderation and guidance for the public.

  • POSTnote

    AI and healthcare

    There are various applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare, such as helping clinicians to make decisions, monitoring patient health, and automating routine administrative tasks. This POSTnote gives an overview of these uses, and their potential impacts on the cost and quality of healthcare, and on the workforce. It summarises the challenges to wider adoption of AI in healthcare, including those relating to safety, privacy, data-sharing, trust, accountability and health inequalities. It also outlines some of the regulations relevant to AI, and how these may change. As healthcare is a devolved issue, policies on healthcare AI differ across the UK. This POSTnote focusses on regulations and policies relevant to England.

  • Rapid response

    COVID-19 and the digital divide

    The digital divide is the gap between people in society who have full access to digital technologies (such as the internet and computers) and those who do not. Concerns about the digital divide have been particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic as the internet and digital devices have played an important role in allowing people to access services, attend medical appointments and stay in touch with friends and family. What impact has the digital divide had on children and adults in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and what has been done to tackle it?

  • Rapid response

    Technology and domestic abuse

    The use of technology to perpetrate domestic abuse, referred to as tech abuse, has become increasingly common. Domestic abuse charity Refuge reported that in 2019, 72% of women accessing its services said that they had been subjected to technology-facilitated abuse. Common devices such as smartphones and tablets can be misused to stalk, harass, impersonate and threaten victims. Some groups have raised concerns that the growing use of internet-connected home devices (such as smart speakers) may provide perpetrators with a wider and more sophisticated range of tools to harm victims. How is technology being used to perpetrate domestic abuse, how can this be prevented and what role can technology play in supporting victims?

  • POSTnote

    Interpretable machine learning

    Machine learning (ML, a type of artificial intelligence) is increasingly being used to support decision making in a variety of applications including recruitment and clinical diagnoses. While ML has many advantages, there are concerns that in some cases it may not be possible to explain completely how its outputs have been produced. This POSTnote gives an overview of ML and its role in decision-making. It examines the challenges of understanding how a complex ML system has reached its output, and some of the technical approaches to making ML easier to interpret. It also gives a brief overview of some of the proposed tools for making ML systems more accountable.

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