John Maskrey explores BCS's new ethical certification programme and explains why it will make professionals’ CVs shine while helping organisations advance their AI strategies.

The Ethical Build of AI is a new certification programme from BCS. It educates professionals on the principles of ethical design, and gives them frameworks for applying these principles as they build AI systems. The course draws on insight and case studies from over two decades of AI application to explore real world risks, and applies across all sectors.

Why don’t you introduce yourself?

My name is John Maskrey. I'm a senior digital product developer at BCS and part of the Chartered Institute for IT’s wider product team. I oversee a team that develops our certifications, assessments, qualifications and CPD resources.

What’s unique about The Ethical Build of AI?

The Ethical Build of AI provides an adaptable framework that helps people to apply ethical design and decision making within their own work, allowing them to embed ethics within their processes and their preferred tools.

The program provides access to insights from AI developers, tools, techniques and templates. It promotes the use of a five stage process: define, issues, options, decision and explanation — hence the name DIODE.

This approach allows professionals to consider and appreciate the ethical implications of their AI work. It’s about being ethical by design. Retrofitting ethics after you’ve designed and built something is complex and potentially very costly. 

Watch the video: Introduction to the BCS Foundation Certificate in The Ethical Build of AI

Looking at the Ethical Build of AI, what’s the structure, and how does it work?

It is a new product for us at BCS. It's an online certification programme we've developed that people can study at their own pace and in their own time. It encompasses a 12 hour learning programme that features an online course with interactive elements and video insights. Practical examples, knowledge checks and tests are included along the way. It even has a bit of AI integrated into it, where the learners receive automated feedback when providing answers and solutions to situations involving AI. This is great for encouraging critical thinking and the application of ethical principles to real world scenarios and has also meant we’ve been able to provide a working example of AI as a feature of the course itself.

At the end, there’s an online exam which leads to a professional certification.

As I say, it is expected that it will take 12 hours for someone to move from starting The Ethical Build of AI programme to finally achieving their certification.

So, why ethics? Why are ethics important in the context of building AI tools and products?

Fundamentally, ethics should be central to everything we do. As IT professionals, we must act responsibly and for the public's good.

Of course, BCS has a Royal Charter that urges us to focus on making IT good for society. The Ethical Build of AI certification programme aligns very much with BCS’ core purpose. It is about encouraging and influencing people to think ethically when adopting AI and building AI-based products.

It’s no accident that we’re launching The Ethical Build for AI right now. AI’s adoption, potential and capabilities are advancing at astonishing rates. BCS, through this programme, is focused on ensuring that AI products are developed responsibly.

As an industry, we want to push forward and innovate, but we also need guardrails in place, and we need to maintain human oversight. We need to embed ethics in our practices and approaches.

We will lose the public's trust if we fail to understand the ethical implications of our work.

Who should consider embarking on the programme?

It is primarily focused on people working in development. We’re seeing a lot of software developers, testers and those working with AI.

But it’s broader than that. The programme would benefit people working in a project team or collaborating with development teams. For example, business analysts and project managers would really benefit from this too.

The aim is to provide a good sense of ethics and how to apply them so we can to innovate responsibly.

What's the assumed level of knowledge?

We imagine that people will have some basic understanding of data, some principles around development and some core competencies in their role.

The programme focuses on embedding and applying ethics within existing roles. It helps you understand how AI can be used and how to develop a use case. Importantly, it also looks at how to identify where the risks are.

How can having an Ethical Build of AI certification help my CV stand out?

Having this certification programme on your CV demonstrates that you have committed to doing things responsibly and ethically within your technical profession. It shows that you’ve got a good understanding of how to approach working with AI responsibly, and that you are able to support teams and businesses to do things in the right way. And that ultimately, you can be trusted. The certification is from BCS, too, and we’re a leading certification body for IT professionals.

So, how do I make the business case to my boss so I can take the certification?

It’s all about building a clear use case for how you intend to use AI; so understanding what it can do, what problems it can solve and the benefits it can actually bring to the business and its people.

We’ve developed the programme for individuals and teams. From a business perspective, it’s about understanding the business context and its objectives, and then having people who can identify the best opportunities for how AI can be deployed to support the business to achieve those.

For you

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It’s about integrating AI correctly into a business, understanding the impact, the associated risks and how to mitigate them, knowing the elements required for its adoption, advocating its benefits, and ensuring there is clear transparency in how it is actually being used. And, of course, how it can be deployed ethically and for the good of others.

There are lots of potential paybacks. It’s about making more sustainable choices within a business and across supply chains. Ultimately, this means we can improve customer experiences.

From an employer’s perspective: talk to us about how the programme can help staff retention.

There’s a lot of demand for IT professionals and high demand for people who understand AI. It would be foolish not to value the people you have, and offering professional development opportunities is a great way to communicate to your people that they are valued. They also tend to know the business well, so can help identify opportunities and support others to adopt AI in the business.

Having something like the Ethical Build of AI as part of your people development strategy demonstrates that you’re serious about your people and their careers.

Again, it’s also about linking AI development and investment back to business strategy.

Also, by understanding your team's capabilities, you’re much better placed to deliver, achieve and be more sustainable as a business.

Talk to us about how you see The Ethical Build of AI changing organisations.

Regarding AI, there are laws, and different countries have different regulations — even different sectors do. As an industry, we have technical standards, and organisations have policies. But as IT professionals, we’re confronted with ethical dilemmas — sometimes daily. Laws and policies don’t always describe these — they won’t give us the answers. 

This is where ethics comes in: giving people established values and a set of moral principles to help them navigate difficult decisions. Linking our behaviour to our organisational values is fundamentally essential.

And finally, why did BCS develop the course?

BCS’s whole purpose is to make IT good for society. We’ve been doing that for over 60 years, and through that work, we have developed many partnerships with companies and individual professionals.

One of our most prominent members is the new Lord Mayor of London – Professor Michael Mainelli FBCS.  

Along with being the 695th Lord Mayor of London, Michael is passionate about the importance of having shared ethical standards, particularly within AI.

As part of his Connect to Prosper Initiative, The Lord Mayor and BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, where he is a Fellow, have created a new Ethical Build of AI certificate for computing professionals.

Find out more about the BCS Foundation Certificate in the Ethical Build of AI.