Singapore unveiled a first of its kind AI governance framework at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting. The world can expect more to follow.
On 22 January 2019, Singapore’s Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran introduced the Model Artificial Intelligence Governance Framework. According to Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), “The framework is the first in Asia to provide detailed and readily implementable guidance to private sector organisations using Artificial Intelligence (AI).”
The framework serves to guide the private sector on the ethical usage of AI solutions. It has two core principles. Firstly, individuals and companies who create AI should ensure that it is explainable, transparent and fair. This means informing customers when and how AI was involved in decision-making.
Secondly, all AI solutions should be human-centric. The framework also covers risk management approaches, possible probability and severity matrix, deployment practices, datasets management and more. The 30-page “live document” may receive further additions after Singapore receives more feedback from countries and companies.
It is the right timing for ethical AI
By 2025, the AI industry will be worth an estimated US$190 billion. Predictions indicate the sector will continue growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 37%.
Many countries have committed resources and made action plans pertaining to AI use and regulation in 2018. The United States and China, two global AI hubs, have published AI papers and filing patents. The European Union has also formulated an Artificial Intelligence Action Plan. No one wants to lose out in the AI race.
Within ASEAN, 2018 saw the first of many academic symposiums. The International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence for ASEAN Development (ASEAN-AI) brings researchers in the region together to discuss AI-related applications and implementations. Other individual member states have outlined their own roadmap for AI adoption. In Malaysia, 34% of corporations intend to adopt AI within two years.
Although developing nations are lagging behind, such initiatives will benefit them by providing an existing regulatory model. Vietnam, for instance, has only acknowledged the need for a national AI development strategy, but has yet to pour in the funds. By the time Vietnam’s AI landscape matures, there will be a tried and tested framework for it to implement.
Beyond its complexity and ambiguity, AI has massive potential
AI has been a great enabler when it comes to huge data set. Proper algorithms churn out data analysis faster than any human could. AI bots are also getting better at modelling human responses. However, it has to be developed within a rigorous and robust regulatory ecosystem, to avoid any unintended consequences.
Singapore considers AI as one of the four frontier technologies crucial for the growth of its digital economy. AI firms and the government have been working closely to design and integrate smart solutions for Singaporeans.
Singapore is determined to realise the potential of AI
In the ASEAN region, Singapore has taken the lead in AI experimentation. In 2017, Singapore launched AI.SG, a programme to accelerate the nation’s AI capabilities. Over the span of five years, the government will invest up to S$150million (US$110million) in the project. In 2018, AI.SG set up an advisory council. Now, it has shared a governance framework with the global community. Every step fits in nicely with the nation’s ultimate goal of being a leading digital economy.
The Model AI Governance Framework is not prescriptive, but better described as a living document that evolves with changes in the economy. The framework aptly pinpoints issues around AI that the world is concerned about. The AI.SG advisory council is encouraging companies to adopt the framework and provide feedback on the framework’s implementation and limitations.
The framework is an attempt to boost consumer trust and receptiveness towards AI. Better AI understanding amongst the corporate community will also enable Singapore’s firms to further embed AI solutions into their business and drive the development of Singapore’s AI sector.
Singapore has started the ball rolling
AI will continue to gain prominence and transform industries. While it grows, industry players will find this new framework useful in setting them in the right direction.
Efforts to regulate and control the ethical implications of AI will endure. It has to persist, or long-term AI sustainability will be compromised.
An ethics-driven approach to AI is crucial. It sets us thinking about the values and oversight we want to see built in to this powerful technology both now, and in the future. By starting the discussion, we have the ability to mould the way AI applications are developed, putting ASEAN on the first steps of the right regulatory path