From Kenya to China, here’s why countries should start working together on AI

AI-2018 UN

(ITU, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Ganesh Bell, President, Uptake

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is driving massive shifts across the globe, and every day more questions arise. The narrative in the media focuses heavily on an “AI arms race”, with the US and China as the key players. But there is more to the story. The US and China are certainly central figures but they are not the only ones in the race, and the finish line and what characterizes a “winner” is still unclear. There is no doubt, however, that AI will have a generational impact; for example, PwC estimates that AI could increase global GDP by $15.7 trillion by 2030.

Given the sweeping societal considerations and monetary benefits, it is not surprising that governments around the world are taking steps to win in the digital race. Countries as small as Kenya and as large as China have created or are working to create formal national AI frameworks that tackle the important questions AI raises for society, the economy and government.

AI policy is about maximizing benefits while minimizing risks and harms. Questions that government – and in many cases the private sector – are trying to solve include: what impact will AI have on the workforce and how can we prepare for it? How can we encourage economy-boosting and job-creating technologies? How can we ensure that AI will be implemented ethically and with minimal bias? How will society benefit?

Embracing – or refraining from – AI policy

In recent years, Canada, China, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Nordic-Baltic region, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, the UAE and the UK have all released official strategies to promote the use and development of AI and to address these important questions.

But to address their different needs and opportunities, countries are taking vastly different approaches. For example, the European Commission – the European Union’s executive branch – recommended its member states increase their public and private sector investment in AI. It pledged billions in direct research spending. Meanwhile, China laid out its plan for global dominance last year – one that has also been backed up with massive investment. China’s goal is to lead the world in AI technology by 2030. France’s leadership has been clear in its public-private partnership approach. Canada, the first country to release an AI strategy, is primarily research – and talent-driven. The UAE was the first country to create a Ministry of Artificial Intelligence, and its focus is on using AI to enhance government performance.

None of the US, Israel and Russia have a formal national AI policy yet. Private sector companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple and the US department of defence are driving the bulk of AI investment in the United States. Though Israel does not have a specific policy, it is keenly focused on AI and has seen the number of AI start-ups triple since 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world” was interpreted as a declaration of Russia’s investment in AI, and thus Russia is often viewed as a leader in the field. However, the country’s estimated annual spend is only roughly $12.5 million, and it has no official national strategy.

Learning from one another

Which countries are approaching AI most effectively, and to what degree is there opportunity for greater international collaboration? It may be too early to tell; however, when analyzing the best practices of existing national AI policies, there is much that can be learned. These are the specific areas to consider.

Data. From self-driving vehicles to smart cities, data is the driver behind AI. According to a McKinsey Global Institute study, nations that promote open data sources and data sharing are the ones most likely to see AI advances. A Brookings Institute report notes that “in this regard, the United States has an advantage over China. Global ratings on data openness show that US ranks eighth overall in the world, compared to 93rd for China”. But right now, innovation in the United States is limited without a national strategy that answers questions about protocol and ownership. France and Denmark, on the other hand, are opening government data. France is hosting troves of centrally collected public and private data that it plans to make available as part of its strategy. Conversely, by taking a restrictive position on issues of data collection (as indicated by the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation), the EU is putting manufacturers and software designers at a disadvantage while balancing the demand for privacy.

Talent. The demand for AI talent far outweighs the available supply. According to a study by Element AI, there are only 22,000 PhD-educated AI researchers in the world. As a result, almost every nation’s strategy addresses talent development. Canada’s AI strategy is distinct in that it primarily focuses on research and talent strategy. The country boasts AI degree programmes and is building a $127 million research facility in Toronto. Companies like Facebook and my own company, Uptake, are investing in Canada to access this talent pool.

Legal. A whole host of legal questions swirl around AI. Estonia has been a leader in addressing legal questions related to AI: the country is developing a bill for AI liability that will be ready in March 2019. The government hopes the legal framework will attract investors by providing a simple, comprehensive guideline to enable the broad use of AI systems. Issues that arise are being tackled early, giving the country an advantage and serving as a roadmap for others.

Inclusion. One of the great promises of AI is its potential for improving quality of life. But without the right planning and oversight, we risk exacerbating problems of inequality or marginalizing groups of people. As an example, India’s AI strategy is focused on leveraging the technology not only for economic growth, but also for social inclusion. The approach is called #AIforAll and outlines a strategy that aims to empower Indians with the skills to find the quality jobs, invest in research, and scale Indian-made AI solutions to the rest of the developing world. India is not the first country to incorporate AI and inclusion. Canada and France, for example, recently announced a task force to develop an international study group on inclusive and ethical AI.

Which way forward?

I am not naive enough to think that competition won’t drive individual strategies, but I do believe that at some point this will shift to a more collaborative approach. In April, Beijing was the first city to host a major international standards meeting, demonstrating eagerness to set global standards around controversial aspects of AI, such as algorithmic bias and transparency in algorithmic decision-making. In another show of collaboration, the UAE and India signed an agreement in July to spur discussion and explore options for the countries to convene and collaboratively grow their AI economies. The UK and France also entered a partnership intended to seize the economic and social benefits of fast-developing tech such as AI.

We have a unique opportunity at this juncture in history to make decisions that will have worldwide, lasting impacts not only on our national economies but on society as a whole. While each country must consider its specific needs, there is early indication – and early promise – that a global framework may actually create more innovation and allow us to solve more complex and pressing global issues. I am encouraged by the opportunity for collaboration and believe that many of the questions we are grappling with today will be answered if we take the time to learn from one another.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Palliative Care in Children, why it is less known and why do we need to raise awareness more?

Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2019 is ‘climate emergency’

Dinner with friends: how Switzerland is relaxing its coronavirus lockdown

Questions & Answers on vaccine negotiations

Greece and Ukraine main items on EU28 menu; the course is set

COVID-19: Managing Our Mental Health

Estonia is making public transport free

Agreement reached on digital copyright rules

This AI-powered app aims to help people with autism improve their social skills

Commission welcomes political agreement on EU4Health

World must do more to tackle ‘shadowy’ mercenary activities undermining stability in Africa, says UN chief

Eurozone needs more than some decimals of growth

Building a stronger Europe: new initiatives to further boost role of youth, education and culture policies

3 ways to stop COVID-19 from drying up start-up talent pools

Mental health and suicide prevention – What can be done to increase access to mental health services in my region?

Food supply chain: A step closer to ending unfair trading

‘Are we ready for the age of disruption?’, Thailand’s Foreign Minister asks UN Assembly

‘Good enough’ global cooperation is key to our survival

Bertelsmann Stiftung @ European Business Summit 2014: Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TTIP) needs balanced approach

Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner in charge of competition policy, during a recent press conference in Brussels / Berlaymont. (Copyright: EU, 2018 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Jennifer Jacquemart)

EU opens investigation into Qatar Petroleum over potentially restrictive gas contracts

MEPs adopted measures to reconcile work and family life

90% of European Jews say antisemitism is getting worse

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Changing for the change: Medicine in Industry 4.0

How and why Mercedes fakes the EU fuel consumption tests

Across the world, women outlive men. This is why

South Sudan: ‘Horrific acts’ by government may constitute ‘war crimes’ says UN, demanding justice

We need to bin disposable items for good. Here are 5 ways to do it

This man is helping explorers carry out scientific research at the ends of the Earth

3 reasons all countries should embrace the Global Compact for Migration

EU-US Trade: European Commission endorses rebalancing duties on US products

Trump’s denial of Paris climate agreement; the US Republicans lash out against the world

Open-plan offices make workers less collaborative, Harvard study finds

3 vital skills for the age of disruption

Sustainable Development Summit: ‘We must step up our efforts – now’, Guterres declares

Israeli settlements remain ‘flagrant violation’ of international law, UN envoy tells Security Council

Actions not words: what was promised at the UN’s landmark climate summit?

Kids who live in the countryside have better motor skills, a study in Finland has found

After music and TV, where will the streaming revolution take us next?

We want to hear about Europe our citizens are dreaming of, says von der Leyen about the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe

Yemen: Security Council backs new mission in support of key port city truce

The community and a decent working conditions for the young health workforce

Confidence in COVID-19 vaccines continues to rise, Ipsos-Forum poll shows

The pandemic’s effects on US jobs in charts

How electrification can supercharge the energy transition

From fire to fake snow – the global consequences of the climate crisis

It’s time to fulfil the promises made to women 25 years ago

Achieving an optimal student-to-tutor ratio during the COVID-19 pandemic

No patents on naturally obtained plants and seeds

UN agencies ramp up Somalia measles and polio campaign

Closing the gaps in accelerating women’s rights: The role of medical students

The Pandora Box of misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 vaccination drive

UN chief sends condolences to families of Malawi flood victims

5 world-changing ideas: our top picks for World Creativity and Innovation Day

Will the end of QE come along with ECB’s inflation target?

Slight easing of G20 GDP growth in first quarter of 2018

10 ways central banks are experimenting with blockchain

Coronavirus: rescEU masks delivered to Spain, Italy and Croatia

Why business can no longer turn a blind eye to poor vision

What is a CSO and does every company need one?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s