The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Artificial Intelligence (AI) Risk Management Framework (RMF) is out, but due to its voluntary nature, what happens next?

According to AI experts at the State of the Net Conference on March 6, most larger businesses are already working to implement the AI RMF. However, they said the real focus now should be placed on smaller businesses.

“One effort that needs to be done is actually on the small-medium size, as well as the C-suite executives, because that’s really where you’re going to change hearts and minds,” said Michael Richards, director of policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Technology Engagement Center.

“Small businesses, they don’t have the resources. To be frank with you, they don’t have a legal department to look at this and see how they’re utilizing it, track it, and look at where they are in their lifecycle to really go through it,” he added.

Richards explained that there needs to be a continued dialogue around the ethical use of AI, and NIST’s AI RMF does a great job of continuing the conversation.

For example, he said NIST released a companion AI RMF playbook and is planning to publish “profiles” that feature organizations’ best practices and real-life examples from implementing the AI RMF.

“This is 1.0 – is the best way I like to say it – it is not the end of this,” he said. “It’s a living document. It’s going to continue to be discussed and worked on and, for us at the U.S. Chamber, we look forward to continuing to work with them [NIST].”

Evangelos Razis, senior manager of public policy at Workday, added that similar to NIST’s Cybersecurity Framework, he sees the AI RMF becoming the “common language” in which organizations think about AI.

“I think we certainly see the NIST framework as that potential common language because it’s already been done in other fields,” Razis said. “It is a very practical, how-to guide for organizations. For us, it has influenced and will continue to influence how we think about AI governance.”

Elham Tabassi, chief of staff at NIST’s Information Technology Laboratory, welcomed the praise for the AI RMF and said she hopes it can instill trust in AI technologies.

“The bigger goal of the AI RMF is to cultivate trust in technology, is to operationalize values in the technology, design and build technologies that are reflective of the values of our society,” Tabassi said. “And we don’t want this to be an after-the-fact. We want this proactive thinking about how to build technologies that are reflective of our values and work for all people in an equitable, responsible, fair way – as part of the design and development of technology.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.