SMEs (including technology start-ups) are driving the development of generative AI products and services, whilst other non-technology SMEs are enthusiastically adopting these tools. People’s everyday interactions with generative AI will therefore be determined also by how SME develop or
take-up generative AI tools. However, SMEs do not typically have the in-house resources or specialists for responsible AI deployment, particularly in fast-moving areas with uncertain regulation and guidance. Translating research into targeted support for SMEs on responsible generative AI use
offers high potential for impact and reduces the risk of inappropriate and harmful use of generative AI. SMEs are embedded in commercial ecosystems but are often at the mercy of larger providers. In the case of generative AI, SMEs will often be deploying tools on other parties’ terms and conditions. The project’s guidance will include help on how to navigate this ecosystem. Its impact strategy will reach out through SME and sectoral business associations, supporting these organisations to be part of a wider UK AI ecosystem. By also engaging with SMEs in Africa, the project acknowledges that AI ecosystems necessarily cross-national boundaries and aims to share learning between the two contexts. Furthermore, AI operations of SMEs in Africa is an under researched topic given the unique socio-cultural realities within which they operate. In addition to limited resource and often a lack of in-house AI expertise, SMEs in Africa operate within diverse languages, cultures and traditions. How generative AI systems align with or are sensitive to socio-cultural needs, contexts and expectations is critically important to the global discourse on ethical AI. By working with SMEs in Africa and the UK, the RAISE project will contribute to and advance the
global debate on responsible generative AI.

The objective of the project is to provide practical and actionable guidance to SMEs on how to use generative AI responsibly. The particular focus will be on SMEs that build new products and services on generative AI and to help them understand the ethical, social and legal context of generative AI to ensure that the resulting products are environmentally sustainable, socially desirable and ethically acceptable.
Specific objectives that will contribute to this overall objective are:

  • Review the state of the art/live issues in generative AI awareness-raising activities and analyse SMEs’ needs and experience in addressing issues of generative AI
  • Co-create and develop actionable guidance to help SMEs in the UK and Africa implement responsible AI practices
  • Test and implement and evaluate the guidance
  • Carry out outreach and exploitation activities to boost sustainability of the project’s results

These objectives will address a variety of challenges SMEs face in using generative AI responsibly.
Key challenges that the RAISE project will consider include:

  1. the lack of control by SMEs over the generative AI tools used, including lack of access to data collection and validation at scale.
  2. the developing nature of AI ethics guidance and the lack of its specificity and/or tailoring to the SME research and software development context.
  3. the extra effort and time required by SMEs to ensure responsible AI practices.
  4. the impact of local culture, norms and practices on AI use.
  5. future challenges related to regulatory changes.
  6. the pace of developments in generative AI.

Our project will put SMEs at the forefront – make them co-partners and co-developers in the guidance development process. It will help SMEs address generative AI implementation challenges and navigate responsible AI conundrums they face in the research, development and design process
such as bias and fairness, data privacy and security, cultural sensitivity, regulatory compliance, partnerships and third-party services etc.