An interview with Ivana Bartoletti, technical director at Deloitte.
Ivana Bartoletti has established herself as a powerful force within the technical landscape; from starting her career journey in politics, she eventually fell into technology due to the unlikely similarities between the two. Ivana has worked for large powerhouses such as Sky, Barclays – and now, Deloitte.
She is also a public speaker, author, and media commentator – her passion for ethical AI is incredibly important to her and has even seen her win various awards such as ‘Women of the Year’ at the 2019 Cyber Security Awards. Ivana has recently written a new book, ‘An Artificial Revolution: On Power, Politics and AI,’ and we were thrilled to speak with her recently where she discussed her career journey, the future of AI, and the one piece of important information she would like people to take away when reading her book.
What led you into the tech landscape?
My passion for politics led me to technology! Initially, this may sound peculiar, however, technology is not neutral. In particular, it was through my feminist upbringing that I came to terms with the fact that privacy is often used as a control - something that women know well. Technology is great, I enjoy the tools, progress, fun, and the connectively – especially as someone who has left friends and family in Italy! Simultaneously, any technological artifact exists in society and is created by human beings; a tech product is a social product. For example, look at facial recognition and the debate surrounding its usability, or use of algorithms to curate and edit what we are exposed to. Now, more than ever, tech is the kind of society we want – and I’m thrilled to be at the forefront of these discussions alongside some really fantastic people.
What’s it like working as a Technical Director at Deloitte?
It’s fantastic! There is so much talent at Deloitte, it is a big company, and you can have the most interesting and enriching conversations with people from every walk of life. Our work on reliable and trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, for example, is the outcome of so many domain experts, and from a variety of different backgrounds. As a Technical Director, I get to work on privacy, security, and ethics by design and focus on some of the most intriguing issues in the privacy landscapes: data transfers, privacy technologies, algorithmic fairness, and explainability. The best thing is the fact that companies are now seeing privacy and ethics by design as the right thing to do. Consumers are (rightly so!) much more demanding, and some of the data misuses we have seen in recent years have really changed the way people look at the digital. Companies that put privacy and ethics at the heart of what they do definitely have a great, competitive edge!
How would you describe the company culture and team dynamic?
Privacy and data protection never stop, and it is incredible how there is always something new! International data transfers are very much in the spotlight as well as algorithmic assurance. I’d posit that the key challenge is to ensure we are all up to date; passion does help, and you will find very passionate people in my team!
Your specialism is in AI - if you could work in any other part of tech, what would it be and why?
Artificial Intelligence is much more than technology. It is power. AI has the power to reshape geopolitical relations, to form new social dimensions especially as it changes labour and work as we know it. Right now, the narrative around AI is that of a global race to dominance. Countries are equipping themselves with AI strategies to win this race - as someone who loves tech and is passionate about AI, I would like to work to create global governance around AI so that we can maximize the benefits while mitigating all the risks.
You’re the co-founder of Women Leading in AI Network - what has been your fondest moment running this incredible community?
The Women Leading in AI Network is a fantastic place - anyone who wants to help shape the future of AI, so that it benefits everyone, is welcome to join us. There is so much to do! We created the network to promote a proper debate around how we are going to deploy AI tools at a time where more and more decisions about finance, education, and criminal justice are now taken by machines. Predictive algorithms are shaping the relationships between the past, the present, and the future - and algorithmic driven advertising is constructing the reality we are exposed to. When these systems become so powerful, then it is time to talk about responsibility. The risk with automation of decision-making is to automate poverty, racism, and chauvinism too - this is why the Women Leading in AI network advocates for scrutiny, accountability, and a proper licensing agency for algorithms that have a huge impact on people's life. We also need more diversity in AI - and not just in the coding room.
Where do you see AI in five years’ time?
I can tell you where I would like AI in five years' time! My wish list: better health, better prevention, and a huge focus on climate change. In the next five years, I would love to see a new declaration of human rights in the age of AI!
You’ve recently written a book, ‘An Artificial Revolution: On Power, Politics and AI,’ what is one key takeaway you would like people to have when they read it?
We cannot leave AI and its future to the technologists. AI is about power, and this is the time to ensure that power benefits us all. I wrote ‘An Artificial Revolution’ because I wanted people to talk about AI at the kitchen table. Issues around bias, for example, need to be understood by everyone, in my view, as algorithms have the power to scale them up and turn them into unaccountable prejudices. The real issue is that over the last decades, tech has brought has so much progress and joy, however sometimes it feels as if we are adapting to tech, rather than having tech adapting to us! An Artificial Revolution is about us owning technology - not the other way around.
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
The challenge is to constantly update, change, understand the far-reaching implications of what happens in the world of data, privacy, and AI - it's challenging but it’s also what makes this job so good!
Advice for anyone hoping to make their mark in AI?
There is no specific route to AI - and I encourage anyone to get involved. I am learning to code now and there is no age limit to that - but AI is far more than coding; how AI is going to challenge the law as we know it, is an area that we need to focus on moving forward.
We’d like to thank Ivana for speaking with us today, if you’d like to read her book, you can buy a copy here.
Finally, connect with like-minded tech-enthusiasts like Ivana on our networking revolution, SODA Social.