Dr. Susan Wegner, Deutsche Telekom AG © Susan Wegner

14 January 2019

"We will have to find the right balance - neither too anxious nor too enthusiastic - to use AI sensibly and to develop it further."

Dr. Susan Wegner is Vice President for Data, Artificial Intelligence & Governance (CDO) of the Deutsche Telekom AG with an experience of over 10 years in designing and leading the development of innovations within the Deutsche Telekom Group. The graduated computer scientist promotes transparency for using data, requests that the development of AI is handled responsibly and that a balance is maintained between anxiety and excitement regarding future technologies.

Due to your extensive experience in the development of innovations within the Deutsche Telekom Group you are always up to date in respect of trends. Where does the location of Berlin come into play regarding data-controlled technologies, above all Artificial Intelligence?

Berlin is Germany’s centre of innovation. This is also why many large concerns have established their innovation hubs in Berlin as has Telekom with its Telekom Innovation Laboratories. Berlin has a lively start-up scene and many opportunities to link research with practice. With the format ‘Digital Wanderlust’ initiated by us we count exactly on this exchange in the extended network to be able to feed our current subjects with inspiration from outside.  

The comparison, of course, with Silicon Valley is never far off. Is it necessary and even mandatory that Berlin and the German technology market draw on the American model? And which are the aspects that distinguish Berlin?

It is my opinion that we do not have to put our light under a bushel. The dominating technology industry in Silicon Valley is, of course, much more present there than here. But this is our advantage. The founder scene in Berlin is still more relaxed and more transparent and therefore the exchange made easier and currently very inspirational.

Diversity plays an important role when developing AI-systems. How and where does Artificial Intelligence discriminate society and what effects does it have on current and future societies?

You cannot refer to AI being discriminating. AI is only as open as algorithms made by real persons and as manifold as the training data used. In this way rather bizarre examples appear of AI applications that have problems recognising Asiatic faces with image recognition or do not react to dark-skinned hands. It is always very important to consider the ethical aspect of AI and to apply due diligence during development and tests. In order to meet this responsibility, as Deutsche Telekom we have established relevant AI Guidelines.

The technological development progresses continuously. What do you think are the challenges, problems and opportunities for the future of Artificial Intelligence?

One of the core issues will be the fact how much we will trust AI. The public discussion is dominated by some noticeable examples, be it for the use in medicine during prophylaxis or early detection of illnesses or discussing the discrimination or faults in autonomous vehicles. We will have to find the right balance - neither too anxious nor too enthusiastic - to use AI sensibly and to develop it further.

The usefulness and sustainability of data is constantly discussed in political debates as well as in society. What regulations do you think should be introduced to protect private data sufficiently and not obstruct important developments at the same time?

By introducing the DSGVO [Data Protection Regulation] the subject of privacy protection has become quite important in the public perception and also within companies. To have even more regulations is the wrong approach in my opinion. The issue is to make the usage of data more transparent for the citizen such that everyone of us can handle them self-determinedly. It is basically not wrong to use personal data in algorithms in order, e.g. to offer improved services. This must, however, be accepted actively by the persons involved - complete transparency towards the end customer.

In which areas of life will data, their evaluation and use become indispensable in future?

I cannot really see any limits here. Data appear everywhere and can assist to support areas of life: Automation and personalisation are the big keywords. It is therefore very important to accompany this development actively and apart from the technical progress to always keep an eye on the consequences and ethical classification.

What would you recommend to those people / enterprises that intend to be involved in the development of Artificial Intelligence in order to get innovations started?

Go ahead! This is an extremely exciting subject. In order to get deeply involved you will need to study the relevant methods and technologies profoundly.
But as mentioned at the beginning: There are many people in Berlin with AI know-how and interesting ideas. By participating in network events, for example, joining will become easier and everyone will soon realise how to get involved with his/her knowledge and ideas. In order to be successful it is important to prepare a business-oriented company strategy.