Singapore Announces Asia’s First AI Ethics Framework at Davos

Amid the trade war between China and the U.S., global elites are gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF), held between January 22 and 25. The meeting serves as a venue for global business leaders, politicians, intellectuals, and journalists to discuss relevant issues of the day. In this month's meeting, Singapore's Minister of Communications and Information released a framework on how artificial intelligence (AI) can be ethically and responsibly used, the first such effort in Asia. Singapore's announcement highlights the emergence of digital technology as a prominent policy issue, and also the growing need for governments to help their citizens and businesses engage with these new forms of technology as they increasingly become an important part of the global economy.

Singapore's framework, which reflects industry consultation, provides implementable guidance to businesses using AI. Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), a government communications agency, said that the principle of transparency, fairness, and human-centrism underpin the framework. Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information and the Minister in charge of Cyber Security, Mr. S. Iswaran, emphasized that this is a "living document" that is intended to match the pace of change in the digital economy, and asked the participants at the WEF for global feedback.

As AI continues to grow as a sector, governments around the world are grappling with the challenge of governing this new technology. Many countries, including Canada, have introduced national strategies to boost their AI research capabilities. At the same time, Asian states have been proactive in introducing measures to address the ethical, legal, and social implications of AI. China, Japan, and South Korea have all set up national bodies to co-ordinate inter-governmental initiatives on AI, specifically, and they are rolling out new educational and research programs to boost their citizens' AI competence. Singapore's announcement of the framework is a harbinger of many more AI-related policy initiatives to come.