SAS puts Humans at The Center with Responsible Innovation Initiative

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As one of the first artificial intelligence and analytics companies, SAS is behind many advances that have transformed the way the world uses data. With increasing, widespread use of powerful data technologies, the importance of Responsible Innovation has never been greater. Formalizing a longstanding commitment to equity and human-centricity, SAS is launching a Responsible Innovation initiative, guided by the SAS Data Ethics Practice.  

“By putting humans at the center of the innovation process, SAS is committed to building a world where data uplifts and empowers everyone,” said Bryan Harris, SAS Chief Technology Officer. “The company has been at the center of the evolution of data science and has the expertise and experience to be an important contributor to the global effort to innovate responsibly.” 

Technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning offer exciting opportunities to enhance human capabilities in many areas. However, if developed and deployed without appropriate controls and human involvement, those technologies can do more harm than good. 

Responsible innovation includes, but goes beyond, important topics like responsible AI and bias to consider the entire innovation process. A responsible innovation approach injects equity and fairness at every step, from idea to development to deployment.  

The SAS Data Ethics Practice: Responsible Innovation’s guiding hand 

The SAS Data Ethics Practice (DEP) is a cross-functional team that guides a globally coordinated effort to help employees and customers deploy data-driven systems that promote human well-being, agency and equity. It is led by Reggie Townsend, who was recently appointed to the US Department of Commerce’s National AI Advisory Council (NAIAC). He also serves on the board of EqualAI, a nonprofit organization focused on reducing unconscious bias in the development and use of AI. 

Miriam Vogel, NAIAC chairperson and President and CEO of EqualAI, said, “It’s important that a technology stalwart like SAS, with a reputation as an ethical company and strong corporate citizen, be at the table for important discussions that will shape the future of AI and analytics. Reggie Townsend brings to NAIAC and EqualAI a collaborative spirit and an ideal combination of business expertise and passion for social issues.”  

Townsend and the DEP counsel and coordinate with SAS research and development and other groups within the company to embed responsible innovation principles of: human-centricity, inclusivity, transparency, accountability, robustness and privacy and security. 

A Responsible Innovation collaborator and contributor 

There are many innovative and committed organizations striving to improve the responsible use of technology. ​For example, SAS collaborated with many of America’s leading companies to launch the Business Roundtable’s Roadmap for Responsible AI​. SAS will continue to work with and learn from customers, partners, academics, students, community organizations and non-profits, to inform its own practices and explore new ways to lift people up with data and analytics.  

“While we’ve been at this for a long time, we don’t have all the answers,” said Townsend. “Those that create, consume and regulate data and AI have a shared risk, reward and responsibility to be trustworthy stewards of technology for the benefit of people and the planet we inhabit.”