India on Monday, 15 June, joined the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, as one of the founding members to jointly work towards an ethical, human centric development and use of AI.
This multi-stakeholder global coalition includes Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Born out of successive G7 summits in 2018 and 2019, GPAI has also been notable for China’s absence. While non G7 members like India, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand have found a place at the high-tables for a joint development of AI standards, this new coalition is also being seen as a means to counter China’s growing influence in the technology.
AI AT CROSSROADS
This new international grouping comes at a vital time when consensus building around the usage of AI appears to be at crossroads.
While the technology finds applications in nearly every social sector, the use of AI in areas such as facial recognition have been condemned for abuse by governments and police around the world in surveillance and racial profiling.
In a move that surprised many, on 8 June, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna called on US Congress to enact reforms to combat systemic racism and announced that the company was getting out of the facial recognition business.
In a similar move, Amazon announced a one-year moratorium on police use of its artificial intelligence software Rekognition amid a growing backlash over its use by law enforcement to target racial minorities in the US.
WHAT WILL THE GPAI DO?
GPAI is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth, a press release by the Ministry of Electronics and IT said on Monday.
In collaboration with partners and international organisations, GPAI will work towards bringing together leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to collaborate to promote responsible evolution of AI.
The partnership also plans to evolve methodologies to show how AI can be leveraged to better respond to the present global crisis around COVID-19.
GPAI will be supported by a Secretariat, to be hosted by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, as well as by two Centres of Expertise – one each in Montreal and Paris.
The OECD would also be a Permanent Observer to GPAI’s governing bodies and its experts participate in the working groups and plenary meetings. Inaugural meetings of these groups are expected in late 2020.
India has recently launched National AI Strategy and National AI Portal and has plans to leverage AI across sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare, e-commerce, finance, telecommunications.
Membership to the high tables of development of AI-related policies presents an opportunity for India, a country that has been keen to leverage the technology but has seen limited innovation in the field.
In fact, a discussion paper titled “National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence” released by NITI Aayog in June, says:
“Adoption of AI in India has remained rather limited, less than a quarter of firms in India are using AI in any form for their business processes and startup ecosystem in AI is virtually non-existent.”
NITI Aayog, in its discussion paper, mentions five barriers that have to be negotiated in order to “truly reap the benefits of deploying AI at scale.”
- Lack of broad based expertise in research and application of AI
- Absence of enabling data ecosystems – access to intelligent data
- High resource cost and low awareness for adoption of AI
- Privacy and security, including a lack of formal regulations around anonymisation of data, and
- Absence of collaborative approach to adoption and application of AI
WHAT ABOUT CHINA’S ABSENCE?
Even as China remains conspicuous by its absence from a global platform, its threat looms large over some of the member nations like the United States of America.
Having initially stayed out of this new grouping, citing regulation in AI to be a dampener to its development, the US was the last G7 member to sign, citing the threats posed by China.
Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer in the Unites States government acknowledged that the Trump administration had been skeptical of regulating the AI sector and towards multilateral approaches in general.
The Chinese government, Kratsios, said, “has twisted AI in ways that are in direct conflict with the values of the US and its allies.”
Unlike India, however, China’s roadmap in AI has been ambitious and robust. This is reflected in its three-year AI development plan (2018-2020) which calls for development of “AI 2.0” technologies, such as swarm intelligence and hybrid systems that achieve human-machine integration.
China, which also harbours ambitions of setting global technical standards in AI development, is likely to view this international organisation as a rival standards setting body.
The Observer Research Foundation, in a paper outlining country-wise AI policies observes that China “intends to pursue a ‘first-mover advantage’ to grow into the world’s ‘primary AI innovation centre’ by 2030.”
“The government has further stated that AI will not only be a priority but the backbone of the country’s ‘industrial upgrading and economic transformation’ as laid out in the Made in China 2025 plan,” ORF’s paper stated.