Exploring IBM’s Framework for AI Ethics Governance

Posted by Marbenz Antonio on December 7, 2023

“Organizations are tasked with ensuring that AI projects they develop, deploy, or utilize do not result in negative ethical consequences,” according to Gartner. However, despite 79% of executives acknowledging the importance of AI ethics in their overall AI strategy, fewer than 25% have implemented operationalized ethics governance principles. In a recent case study featuring IBM, Gartner discusses establishing a governance framework to streamline identifying and managing ethical concerns related to technology in AI projects.

Addressing the Need for an AI Governance Framework

The case study emphasizes, “With the increasing prevalence of AI in business operations, organizations need to guarantee the ethical use of this technology.” As the scope of AI applications broadens, generalized and abstract principles are proving inadequate, lacking clear processes for legal and ethical evaluations.

IBM’s governance framework is structured around four key roles within the company:

  • The Policy Advisory Committee: Senior global leaders play a crucial role in overseeing the AI Ethics Board and contribute to defining the company’s strategy and risk tolerance.
  • The AI Ethics Board: The AI Ethics Board serves as a central, cross-disciplinary body responsible for supporting a centralized governance, review, and decision-making process regarding IBM’s ethics policies, practices, communications, research, products, and services. Recently, the Board shared its perspective on foundation models, addressing the risks associated with generative AI.
  • AI Ethics Focal Points: Trained representatives from business units, specializing in AI ethics, serve as initial points of contact. They are responsible for identifying concerns, mitigating associated risks for each use case, and escalating issues to the AI Ethics Board when necessary.
  • An Advocacy Network: A grassroots-level network of employees is established across various board workstreams. Their role is to share and promote IBM’s technology ethics principles within their teams, as well as to scale AI ethics initiatives throughout the organization.

In addition, the CPO AI Ethics Project Office plays a crucial role in supporting these initiatives. It acts as a liaison between governance roles, assists in implementing technology ethics priorities, aids in establishing AI Ethics Board agendas, and ensures that the board remains informed about industry trends and company strategy.

Building a culture of responsible AI

IBM has openly articulated its comprehensive and diverse strategy for AI ethics, grounded in principles of trust and transparency. These foundational principles serve as the basis for the efforts of IBM’s AI Ethics Board, which assesses AI use cases to ensure they align with IBM’s principles and adapt to the evolving regulatory landscape.

Looking forward

Employing the aforementioned framework, IBM promotes ethical AI governance through its product offerings. IBM watsonx.governance™, a component of the watsonx™ platform set to launch on December 5th, assists organizations in overseeing and managing the entire AI lifecycle. This tool expedites the implementation of responsible, transparent, and explainable AI workflows. Its toolkit automates risk management, monitors models for bias and drift, captures model metadata, and facilitates collaborative, organization-wide compliance.

IBM Consulting also delivers extensive AI consulting services in alignment with the company’s overarching approach to AI ethics. Experts from IBM can assist organizations in implementing responsible and trustworthy AI across various use cases, including customer service, application modernization, talent transformation, marketing, and finance operations.


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