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Human Rights Council 36: Rights of Older Persons

This UK statement was delivered at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council during the Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Rights of Older Persons on 12 September 2017.

The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
The Human Rights Council takes place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

The United Kingdom thanks the Independent Expert on the Rights of Older Persons and the Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation for their work and would like to address our remarks to Ms Kornfeld-Matte.

Robotics, artificial intelligence and automation promise exciting new opportunities for individuals with care and support needs, whatever their age. Developments may be particularly relevant to older persons, supporting autonomy and independence, increasing choice and access to information, and enabling human contact to be focussed on the most meaningful activities.

However, it is important that all groups are treated fairly by automated applications. Automated and robotic functions must be designed carefully to respond to the needs of older persons, and with their participation. Machine learning applications in particular depend on the data with which they are developed. It is vital that datasets do not encode biases, or ignore the needs of some groups.

We will lead by example on using data responsibly. In May 2016 we published a Data Science Ethical Framework to provide guidance on the ethical use of data within government. We are also proposing to set up a new Data Use and Ethics body to establish a sound ethical framework for data use.

If the potential benefits of digital technologies are to be fully realised, it will be important to raise awareness, where appropriate, through training, to enable informed decision making and consent, including the right to refuse particular forms of support.

Only by fully engaging older persons in the development of technologies can we ensure that these reflect needs and respect human rights. We would like to ask the Independent Expert how she believes we can best encourage greater societal understanding of the opportunities and challenges presented for older persons by robotics, artificial intelligence and automation.

Published 12 September 2017