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ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: OPINION

AI guidelines: A right step in harnessing responsible innovation

ARTIFICIAL Intelligence (AI) promises a wide range of benefits: making governments more responsive, our cities more inclusive for citizens with special needs, and businesses more competitive. Economists project that the transformative nature of AI could boost global GDP by more than US$15 trillion by 2030. And experts agree that Singapore is particularly well-positioned to reap the benefits of greater AI deployment, which potentially could boost the economy's growth to a projected 5.4 per cent by 2035 and nearly doubling overall productivity over the same period.

Given the economic and societal opportunities of AI, governments are understandably exploring how to maximise the benefits of the technology in a way that also addresses some of its potential challenges. New challenges - including job displacement, concerns over data privacy, the misuse of data, and cybersecurity - demand thoughtful, prescient policy responses. If society is to harness AI's full potential, then governments must play a key role in examining the legal, social and regulatory issues related to the ethical development and use of AI innovation.

A comprehensive and consistent set of principles and a common language for discussing responsible AI use are vital to avoid the risk that AI governance policy will fragment regionally and globally. The World Economic Forum (WEF) announced its efforts to collaborate with a number of countries on Fourth Industrial Revolution research, including on issues such as the Internet of Things, automation and the adoption of AI, at the meetings in Davos, Switzerland this week. At the same time, some countries, including Singapore, have taken the first steps by creating frameworks and guidelines to help ensure responsible AI innovation.

Singapore's AI policy and governance initiatives provide a strong foundation to support the country's role as a hub for AI development. As a global organisation, BSA is actively engaged in discussions around AI policy all over the world, and Singapore's engagement plays a crucial thought leadership role internationally.

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Notably, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has launched several initiatives to drive awareness of the benefits and challenges of AI. The release of an AI governance framework in Singapore will enable responsible AI innovation and mitigate the various risks associated with AI deployment - ensuring that decision-making processes via AI are explainable, transparent and fair, and that AI is used positively to amplify human capabilities and interests.

This flexible policy framework will help build a trusted AI ecosystem in Singapore, supporting and enabling the continued deployment of impactful AI products and services. It can also serve as an important blueprint for the development of AI governance frameworks elsewhere.

Beyond the governance and accountability issues addressed by IMDA's framework, BSA has identified a number of additional policy priorities that countries will need to address in order to facilitate responsible AI:

Sound data innovation policy

The exponential increase in data, combined with increases in remote computing power and the development of more sophisticated algorithms, have fuelled advances in machine learning and AI.

Sound data-innovation policies - including ensuring that data can move freely across borders, facilitating open access to government data, avoiding the creation of new rights in business data and maintaining predictable, technology-neutral competition policies - are critical in facilitating AI to unleash its benefits.

For example, Japan has kept its data borders relatively free by committing to international standards, such as those set out by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and its Cross-Border Privacy Rules system, and is able to harness emerging technology effectively to benefit its economy.

Cybersecurity and privacy protection

As AI and other digital technologies increasingly connect the global economy, we must also be vigilant in addressing increased security and privacy risks. Governments should adopt policies that strengthen security measures and respect informed consumer choices, while ensuring the ability to deliver valuable tailored products and services.

In the Association of South-east Asian Nations, where diversity creates a more intricate and challenging policy and regulatory landscape in which businesses operate, cybersecurity policy solutions should embrace more public-private collaboration, foster market-driven solutions, protect user privacy and align with internationally recognised standards that are risk-based, adaptable and outcome-oriented.

Workforce development

The increasing use of, and demand for, technology is creating new types of jobs that require an evolving set of skills in every sector of the economy. The changes in the employment landscape will become even more prominent with the use of emerging technologies such as AI. The public and private sectors, as well as academia and civil society, have important roles to play in developing and implementing policies that will prepare the next generation for the jobs of the future and enable the current workforce to transition successfully to the new job environment. For example, the government of Singapore has collaborated with a number of other industry partners to launch an AI for Industry training programme to prepare the workforce for future job opportunities in AI and data.

Beginning of a new era in AI

We are at the beginning of a new era, in which AI is being applied in thousands of innovative ways to improve our lives, grow the economy and solve problems in ways that were simply impossible before. To ensure that AI can deliver its greatest positive potential, industries, governments, academics and public-interest leaders must all work together to advance policies and practices that enable us, as a society, to take full advantage of emerging technologies. Singapore's ongoing effort in engaging key stakeholders will help ensure that responsible AI innovation can be achieved in this region. Never before have AI-enabled opportunities been so vast, and thoughtful policy so vital.

  • The writer is senior director, policy - Asia-Pacific, at BSA | The Software Alliance