Can AI Be Good? ASEAN Says Yes, With New Governance Guide
- By CDOTrends editors
- February 13, 2024
The ASEAN Digital Ministers recently unveiled a landmark Artificial Intelligence (AI) governance guide to encourage ethical and responsible development of AI in the 10-nation bloc amid a global race to dominate critical technology.
The wide-ranging voluntary guide outlines guidelines and recommendations for companies looking to design, develop, and deploy trustworthy AI systems and governments seeking to nurture a vibrant local, secure, and socially beneficial AI ecosystem. It caps several years of research and consultations among policymakers, companies and technical experts within ASEAN and externally.
“The AI guide suggested a light-touch and flexible approach to manage AI risks, reflecting the region’s fragmented policies and capabilities. Some countries favor a more market-driven approach, while others prefer to regulate AI from the outset,” said Heidi Mah, associate director at BGA Singapore, in her expert insights.
The centerpiece of the guide is 7 guiding principles—transparency, fairness, security & safety, human-centricity, privacy, accountability and robustness—for companies to consider when building AI systems. Translation of these principles into business practices might involve appointing dedicated AI ethics boards, clearly specifying the level of human involvement in automated decisions based on impact assessments, implementing controls across the AI system development lifecycle, and proactively communicating with stakeholders.
The guide also makes several national policy recommendations geared towards accelerated AI adoption. These span areas like investments into AI research, commercialization grants, and sandbox environments for startups, programs to build specialized AI talent pipelines, and raising public awareness of AI.
Equally notable is the call for an ASEAN-level AI governance coordination platform comprising government, industry and academia representatives. The working group would support aligning AI policies within the bloc, take stock of implementation, provide recommendations to address emerging issues and engage external partners on AI. Its establishment was welcomed by ASEAN policymakers as a step towards avoiding conflicting regulations within the bloc that could hinder cross-border data flows and development.
The guide's launch kicks off a new policy and regulatory activity phase within ASEAN countries to turn principles into practice. While adoption remains voluntary, Mah expects larger companies and government agencies to lead implementation given greater resources and public profile.
Mah adds that the actual test will come in how ASEAN governments choose to incorporate elements of the regional guide into nascent national AI governance frameworks despite differing priorities. The working group, once constituted, could be an important platform to drive consistency.
Image credit: Stockphoto/Moor Studio