July 11, 2023
HONG KONG – Experts say that one-size fits all approach to use of emerging tech will not suit Southeast Asia
Much-needed regulations to ensure the responsible use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) in Southeast Asia must consider the diverse perspectives and experiences of the people in the region, experts said.
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are now drafting the ASEAN Guide on AI Governance and Ethics, which is expected to be released in early 2024.
Singapore, the 2024 rotating chair of the ASEAN Digital Ministers Meeting, is leading discussions on the guidelines.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ move is in line with the global trend to promote the responsible use of artificial intelligence to mitigate potential risks
Elina Noor, a senior fellow for the Asia Program of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said ASEAN governments primarily view AI through a “pragmatic, utilitarian lens”.
They treat this emerging technology as a means to boost the economy and improve public services, she said.
Noor noted ASEAN’s diversity and that differences in technical, policy, and legal capacities and capabilities in different countries need to be considered when setting standards on AI.
“There are significant gaps in the region as a whole in framing AI-related discussions from a more organic and holistic approach that factors in historical, social, and cultural precepts. National and regional approaches in ASEAN have instead tended to favor adapting conventional frameworks, concepts, and terminology – many of which emerge from specific contexts in the global north – and localizing them where relevant,” she said.
Noor said it is important for ASEAN to set rules and ethics on AI as it will help the region chart its digital future based on each member state’s national aspirations while redressing structural inequities through technology.
She said a set of guidelines can also promote an ASEAN-wide approach to AI, giving the region the agency and autonomy in the field of digital technology.
ASEAN’s move is in line with the global trend to promote the responsible use of AI to mitigate potential risks.
The European Parliament will soon pass a law regulating AI, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the United Kingdom will host a global summit on safety in artificial intelligence in autumn, and China participated in formulating UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.
Monchito Ibrahim, the lead convener of the Manila-based Alliance of Tech Innovators for the Nation, said it is “comforting” to see that ASEAN is developing guidelines on AI, as the region needs to strike a balance between the economic advantages of AI and its associated risks.
“AI is engendering excitement and fear about its potential to reshape almost everything we do today,” he said.
Ibrahim, a former undersecretary of the Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology, said that AI has emerged as a “favorite topic” of the many forums held in the country in the last six months.
“For most people, the biggest worry is the impact of AI on their jobs and making their skills irrelevant. Policymakers are also worried about the potential use of AI to spread misinformation,” he said.
AI is key to Singapore’s vision of developing a Smart Nation and it has committed nearly 700 million Singapore dollars on AI-related research.
In Thailand, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has launched an AI-powered CCTV network to prevent motorcyclists from riding on footpaths and ensure compliance with traffic laws.
Malaysia’s Fly FM radio station has introduced Aina Sabrina, the country’s first AI-powered radio DJ, while in Indonesia tvOne’s Nadira is a virtual television anchor that was developed based on the station’s real-life news anchor Fahada Indi.
James Pang Yan, co-director of the Business Analytics Center at the National University of Singapore’s Business School, said the time is right for developing guidelines on AI as the technology is advancing rapidly and has a significant impact on people’s daily lives.