New Joint Synthesis Report by APRU and hbs HK Shows Way Forward on Regulating AI
APRU is proud to announce the publication of the final synthesis report of the Regulating AI webinar series brought together by the Hong Kong-chapter of the Germany-based Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (hbs HK) and APRU. “Regulating AI: Debating Approaches and Perspectives from Asia and Europe” addresses key questions that surround the appropriate regulation of AI including: What constitutes an unacceptable risk? How does AI become explainable? How can data rights be protected without throttling AI’s potential? The joint synthesis report comes at a critical time, as AI has been leaving the labs and is rapidly gaining footholds in our everyday lives. Millions of decisions – many of them invisible – are being driven by AI. “The project facilitated a fruitful exchange of perspectives from Asia and Europe and allows us to better understand a wide range of emerging approaches to the regulation of AI in different parts of the world,” says Christina Schönleber, APRU’s Chief Strategy Officer and member of the Regulating AI webinar series working group. Webinar 1 under the theme “Risk-based Approach of AI Regulation” was moderated by Zora Siebert (hbs Brussels) and featured Toby Walsh (University of New South Wales), Alexandra Geese (Member of European Parliament), and Jiro Kokuryo (Keio University) as speakers. The event highlighted that the EU’s proposed AI Act is taking a significant step in defining the types of AI with unacceptable risks, as well as how these can be clearly defined. Webinar 2 under the theme “Explainable AI” was moderated by Kal Joffres (Tandemic) and brought in perspectives of Liz Sonenberg (University of Melbourne), Matthias Kettemann (Hans-Bredow-Institute / HIIG), and Brian Lim (National University of Singapore). Participants agreed that enabling humans to understand why a system makes a particular decision is key to fostering public trust. Webinar 3 under the theme “Protection of Data Rights for Citizens and Users” was moderated by Axel Harneit-Sievers (hbs HK) with Sarah Chander (European Digital Rights), M Jae Moon (Yonsei University), and Sankha Som (Tata Consultancy Services) looking into various risks deriving from both under-regulation and over-regulation. The synthesis report concludes that while governments are fully capable of banning or restricting entire categories of AI uses, the risks posed by AI are so context-sensitive that regulating them a priori and regardless of context is a blunt instrument. The working group furthermore notes that policy discussions on AI have too often focused on individuals’ fundamental rights; they recommend that discussions should be rebalanced for greater consideration of the broader societal impacts of AI. Finally, the synthesis report warns that policy discussions centred on the risks of AI can sometimes lose sight of the opportunities AI offers for creating a better future. “AI has the potential to help address human biases in decision-making and deliver a level of explainability that many of today’s institutions cannot, from banks to government agencies,” the working group writes. “The opportunities of AI must be monitored and acted upon as rigorously as the risks.” Find out more information about Regulating AI here. Download the report here.
February 16, 2023more
Workshop Reveals Impressive Progress on AI for Social Good Project
On 11 January 2023, NXPO in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), Australian National University (ANU) and partner entities organized the 2nd workshop of “AI for Social Good: Strengthening Capabilities and Government Frameworks in Asia and the Pacific” project, or known in short as AI for Social Good project. The virtual workshop served the objective to review research progress and analyze in-depth information on capabilities and governance frameworks that will effectively support the exploitation of artificial intelligence (AI) for social good. This activity is a follow-up on the 1st workshop held on 31 August 2022 in which outlines of four research proposals were reviewed and given feedbacks by experts. The four proposals are 1) Responsible Data Sharing, AI Innovation and Sandbox Development: Recommendations for Digital Health Governance in Thailand, 2) Raising Awareness of the Importance of Data Sharing and Exchange to Advance Poverty Alleviation in Thailand, 3) AI in Pregnancy Monitoring: Technical Challenges for Bangladesh, and 4) Mobilizing AI for Maternal Health in Bangladesh. Since then, remarkable progress has been made on these four studies with the support of government agencies and the network of universities in the Asia-Pacific region. NXPO Vice President Dr. Kanchana Wanichkorn who leads the AI for Social Good project expressed her appreciation to the four research teams and partner organizations for their commitment and dedication to studies. She also underscored the importance of a balance between academic excellence and real-world application in performing policy research. Expert panel reviewing the progress and provide suggestions to the research projects consisted of Dr. Kommate Jitvanichphaibool, NXPO Senior Director of Technology Foresight Division; Dr. Suttipong Thajchayapong, Leader of Strategic Analytics Networks with Machine Learning and AI Research Team, the National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC); and Dr. Warasinee Chaisangmongkon, faculty member of Institute of Field Robotics, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (FIBO-KMUTT). For more information on this project, please visit here. View the article in a Thai version here.
January 26, 2023more
APRU on Bloomberg: The next stage: APRU-Google-UN ESCAP AI for Social Good Project now working directly with government agencies
Original post on Bloomberg. The AI for Social Good Project – Strengthening AI Capabilities and Governing Frameworks in Asia and the Pacific has recently passed the milestone of onboarding two key government agencies. The project is the latest collaboration between the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), UN ESCAP, and Google.org, which commenced in mid-2021 and will run until the end of 2023. Over the past year, meetings and workshops have been held with government agencies from Thailand and Bangladesh. The confirmed government partners to join the project are the Office of National Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO) of Thailand, in close collaboration with the National Electronics and Computer Center (NECTEC) and the National Science and Technology Development Agency and the Institute of Field Robotics (FIBO) under the King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, and the Bangladesh Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme. NXPO and a2i are affiliated with Thailand’s Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation and the ICT Division and Cabinet Division of Bangladesh, respectively. The AI for Social Good multi-stakeholder network was initially set up in 2019, among the first milestones being the creation of a platform that convenes leading experts from the region to explore opportunities and challenges for maximizing AI benefits for society. After these activities engaged a wide range of policy experts and practitioners, the three project partners decided that it was the right time to move on to the next stage of working directly with government agencies to apply the insights generated through the collaborative project to date. The aim has been to work with government partners in Asia and the Pacific to grow sound and transparent AI ecosystems that support sustainable development goals. “Recognizing that AI offers transformative solutions for achieving the SDGs, we are pleased to participate in the AI for Social Good Project to share experience and research insights to develop enabling AI policy frameworks,” said Dr. Kanchana Wanichkorn, NXPO’s Vice President. NXPO identified ‘Poverty Alleviation’ and ‘Medicine and Healthcare’ as two areas of need that are now tackled by two academic project teams. To alleviate poverty and inequality, the Thai government has developed data-driven decision-making systems to improve public access to state welfare programs. The project, under the academic leadership of the Australia National University (ANU) team, will focus on enhancing the human-centered design and public accessibility of these technologies to support successful implementation. In addition, research on AI for medical applications has increased exponentially in the past few years in Thailand. However, the progress in developing and applying AI from research to market in these areas is relatively slow. To support and accelerate the use of AI in medicine and healthcare, the expert team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) will focus their research and analysis on identifying crucial bottlenecks and gaps that impede the beneficial use of AI. While the two Bangladesh projects both focus on the need for ‘Continuing and Personalized Pregnancy Monitoring’ (to improve health outcomes during and after birth), they are exploring different aspects of this key focus area for the government of Bangladesh. Under the leadership of the team from NUS & KAIST, the first project investigates challenges in perceptions and reception of incorporating AI into continuous pregnancy monitoring systems. Under the leadership of the University of Hawai‘i Team, the second project circles in on technological issues of Bangladesh’s healthcare sector and their impacts on AI-based data analysis and decision-making processes. The academic integrity of both sets of country projects is overseen by Toni Erskine, Professor of International Politics and Director of the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU. Erskine guides both the conception of the research questions in collaboration with the government partners and the delivery of the project outputs by providing support for the four academic teams in developing their projects. “It has been incredibly rewarding to lead a project that brings together such an impressive, multidisciplinary group of researchers with government agencies that are so passionate about finding solutions to crucial problems – ranging from poverty alleviation to maternal health care,” Erskine said. She added that “the process of working closely with government agencies from the outset to discuss these problems and co-design research questions makes this project unique and genuinely collaborative. I’m very proud to be part of it.” The following steps for the ‘AI for Social Good Project: Strengthening AI Capabilities and Governing Frameworks in Asia and the Pacific’ project will be to review and discuss the first complete drafts of the research papers by the four academic teams at a workshop in January. The partner government agencies from Bangladesh and Thailand will attend the workshop. Workshops with both government teams will also follow the presentation of final papers in the second quarter of 2023. To mark the project’s conclusion, a summit with all participants in the project will be held in mid-2023 at the Australia National University. More APRU AI for Social Good
November 28, 2022more
APRU and Government Partners Organize Workshop to Strengthen AI policy in the Asia-Pacific Region
On 31 August 2022, the Office of National Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO) of Thailand in close collaboration with the National Electronics and Computer Center (NECTEC) and the National Science and Technology Development Agency and the Institute of Field Robotics (FIBO) under King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi co-hosted a workshop to review research proposals to drive “AI for Social Good: Strengthening Capabilities and Government Frameworks in Asia and the Pacific” project. Co-hosts of this event include the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), Google.org, Australian National University (ANU) and leading universities and research institutes in Thailand and abroad. In this workshop, four AI policy research proposals were presented and reviewed by the experts. The four proposals are: 1) AI in Pregnancy Monitoring: Technical Challenges for Bangladesh, 2) Mobilizing AI for Maternal Health in Bangladesh, 3) Responsible Data Sharing, AI Innovation and Sandbox Development: Recommendations for Digital Health Governance in Thailand, and 4) Raising Awareness of the Importance of Data Sharing and Exchange to Advance Poverty Alleviation in Thailand. Presenting the background and importance of this project in Thailand was NXPO Policy Specialist Dr. Soontharee Namliwal. She proceeded to introduce project members from Thailand which are NXPO, NECTEC of FIBO under King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi. Dr. Kommate Jitvanichphaibool, NXPO Senior Division Director and Dr. Suttipong Thajchayapong, Leader of NECTEC Strategic Analytics Networks with Machine Learning and AI Research Team – provided additional information relating to the research and application of AI in Thailand, namely 1) the poverty alleviation policy, 2) the healthcare system and guidelines for data collection and 3) Personal Data Protection Act B.E. 2562 and policy and guidelines for personal data protection. The experts also offered useful suggestions to the two projects submitted by Thailand to improve the coverage and maximize the benefits to the countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Initiated in 2021, AI for Social Good: Strengthening Capabilities and Government Frameworks in Asia and the Pacific is a collaboration between the UNESCAP, APRU and partners. Under this project, the UNESCAP and APRU, with funding from Google.org, established a multi-stakeholder network to provide support in the development of country-specific AI governance frameworks and national capabilities. For more information on this project, please visit here. View the article in a Thai version here.
September 6, 2022more
No Easy Answers on Protection of AI Data Rights, Webinar by HBS and APRU Shows
On June 15, a webinar held jointly by the Hong Kong office of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBS) and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a consortium of leading research universities in 19 economies of the Pacific Rim, highlighted the complexity of data rights for citizens and users, with risks deriving from both under-regulation and over-regulation of AI applications. The webinar held under the theme Protection of Data Rights for Citizens and Users completed a joint hbs-APRU series consisting of three webinars on regulating AI. The series came against the backdrop of ever more AI-based systems leaving the laboratory stage and entering our everyday lives. While AI enables private sector enterprises and governments to collect, store, access, and analyse data that influence crucial aspects of life, the challenge for regulators is to strike a balance between data rights of users and the rights for enterprises and governments to make use of AI to improve their services. The webinar’s three speakers representing an NGO network, academia and the private sector explained that the fair use of personal data should be protected while abusive manipulation and surveillance should be limited. Conversely, regulators should leave reasonable room for robust innovation and effective business strategies and facilitate effective operation of government bureaus to deliver public services. “We not only talk about the use of personal data but also a broader range of fundamental rights, such as rights to social protection, non-discrimination and freedom of expression,” said Sarah Chander, Senior Policy Adviser at European Digital Rights (EDRi), a Brussels-based advocacy group leading the work on AI policy and specifically the EU AI Act. “Besides these rights in an individual sense, we have also been looking into AI systems’ impact on our society, impact on broader forms of marginalization, potential invasiveness, as well as economic and social justice, and the starting point of our talks with the different stakeholders is the question of how we can empower the people in this context,” she added. M. Jae Moon, Underwood Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Future Government at Yonsei University, whose research focuses on digital government, explained that governments are increasingly driven to implement AI systems by their desire to improve evidence-based policy decision-making. “The availability of personal data is very important to make good decisions for public interest, and, of course, privacy protection and data security should always be ensured,” Moon said. “The citizens, for their part, are increasingly demanding customized and targeted public services, and the balancing of these two sides’ demands requires good social consensus,” he added. Moon went on to emphasize that citizens after consenting to the use of their private data by the government should be able to track the data usage while also being able to withdraw their consent. Sankha Som, Chief Innovation Evangelist of Tata Consultancy Services, explained that the terms Big Data and AI are often intertwined despite describing very different things. According to Som, Big Data is the ability to manage the input side of AI and drawing insights from the data whereas AI is about predictions and decision-making. “If you look at how AI systems are built today, there are several different Big Data approaches used on the input side, but there are also processing steps such as data labelling which are AI specific; and many issues related to AI actually come from the these processing steps,” Som said. “Biases can, intentionally or unintentionally, cause long-term harm to individuals and groups, and they can creep into these processes, so it will not only take regulation on use of input data but also on end use, while at the same time complying with enterprise specific policies,” he added. The webinar was moderated by Dr. Axel Harneit-Sievers, Director, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Hong Kong Office. The series’ previous two webinars were held in May under the themes Risk-based Approach of AI Regulation and Explainable AI. More information Listen to the recording here. Find out more about the webinar series here. Contact Us Lucia Siu Programme Manager, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Hong Kong, Asia | Global Dialogue Email: Lucia.Siu [at] hk.boell.org Christina Schönleber Senior Director, Policy and Research Programs, APRU Email: policyprograms [at] apru.org
June 27, 2022more
Webinar by Heinrich Böll Stiftung and APRU takes deep dive into Explainable AI
On May 25, a webinar held jointly by the Hong Kong office of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (hbs) and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) highlighted that many of the algorithms that run artificial intelligence (AI) are shrouded by opaqueness, with expert speakers identifying approaches in making AI much more explainable than it is today. The webinar held under the theme Explainable AI was the second in a joint hbs-APRU series of three webinars on regulating AI. The series comes against the backdrop of ever more AI-based systems leaving the laboratory stage and entering our everyday lives. While AI algorithmic designs can enhance robust power and predictive accuracy of the applications, they may involve assumptions, priorities and principles that have not been openly explained to users and operation managers. The proposals of “explainable AI” and “trustworthy AI” are initiatives that seek to foster public trust, informed consent and fair use of AI applications. They also seek to move against algorithmic bias that may work against the interest of underprivileged social groups. “There are many AI success stories, but algorithms are trained on datasets and proxies, and developers too often and unintentionally use datasets with poor representation of the relevant population,” said Liz Sonenberg, Professor of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, who featured as one of the webinar’s three speakers. “Explainable AI enables humans to understand why a system decides in certain way, which is the first step to question its fairness,” she added. Sonenberg explained that the use of AI to advise a judicial decision maker of a criminal defendant’s risk of recidivism, for instance, is a development that should be subject to careful scrutiny. Studies of one existing such AI system suggest that it offers racially biased advice, and while this proposition is contested by others, these concerns raise the important issue of how to ensure fairness. Matthias C. Kettemann, head of the Department for Theory and Future of Law at the University of Innsbruck, pointed out that decisions on AI systems’ explanations should not be left to either lawyers, technicians or program designers. Rather, he said, the explanations should be made with a holistic approach that investigates what sorts of information are really needed by the people. “The people do not need to know all the parameters that shape an AI system’s decision, but they need to know what aspects of the available data influenced those decisions and what can be done about it,” Kettemann said. “We all have the right of justification if a state or machine influences the way rights and goods are distributed between individuals and societies, and in the next few years, it will be one of the key challenges to nurture Explainable AI to make people not feeling powerless against AI-based decisions,” he added. Brian Lim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the National University of Singapore (NUS), in his research explores how to improve the usability of explainable AI by modeling human factors and applying AI to improve decision making and user engagement towards healthier and safer lifestyles. Speaking at the webinar, Lim explained that one of the earliest uses of Explainable AI is to identify problems in the available data. Then, he said, the user can investigate whether the AI reasons in a way that follows the standards and conventions in the concerned domain. “Decisions in the medical domain, for instance, are important because they are a matter of life and death, and the AI should be like the doctors who understand the underlying biological processes and causes of mechanisms,” Lim said. “Explainable AI can help people to interpret their data and situation to find reasonable, justifiable and defensible answers,” he added. The final webinar will be held on June 15 under the theme Protection of Data Rights for Citizens and Users. The event will address the challenges for regulators in striking a balance between data rights of citizens, and the rights for enterprises and states to make use of data in AI. More information Listen to the recording here. Find out more about the webinar series here. Register for the June 15th session here. Contact Us Lucia Siu Programme Manager, Heinrich Böll Stiftung, Hong Kong, Asia | Global Dialogue Email: Lucia.Siu [at] hk.boell.org Christina Schönleber Senior Director, Policy and Research Programs, APRU Email: policyprograms [at] apru.org
June 1, 2022more
Heinrich Böll Stiftung and APRU Discuss Risk-based Governance of AI in First Joint Webinar
May 12, 2022more
APRU on China Daily: Your seat at the table depends on how innovative you are
Original post in China Daily. Innovate or perish is the new slogan. If you don’t innovate, you don’t invent and if you don’t invent you are out of the race. Gone are the days of captive consumption in an isolated world. Today, we are talking about global economies that transcend borders and if you have nothing new on the plate, you are doomed. A few days back, there were reports that technological innovation is going to see renewed impetus in China. The State Council has said that the government will publish a list of core scientific projects and seek help from researchers for the same on a voluntary basis. In addition, it will also look at developing policy tools to more efficiently select and allocate funding to potentially groundbreaking research projects. In a nutshell, what this means is that the Chinese government is not only planning to seek the help of the private sector, but also allocating more resources to emerging new technologies to unlock new growth strategies, say experts. Nidhi Gupta, a senior technology analyst at GlobalData, a UK-based data and analytics company, tells me that China’s technological advances in recent years can largely be attributed to the government’s proactive policies and strategies. “China has been promoting the development and use of emerging technologies through a supportive policy framework, setting up large-scale funding of research, and attractive incentives for tech entrepreneurs. The country has also put multiyear strategies in place to upgrade its digital infrastructure and achieve technology independence. In addition, the government’s five-year plans for science and technology innovation and ‘Made in China 2025’ have been instrumental in driving its ascendancy on the innovation front,” says Nidhi. Belunn Se, an industry observer based in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, tells me that technology innovation is necessary for China to vitalize its domestic economy and reinforce industry strength. It will also help the country as it moves up the value chain and bolsters its supply chains. Several stakeholders need to be involved in a systematic manner for the success of tech innovation, he says. The primary role must be played by the government as an organizer of resources, guide and supervisor. Colleges and universities are also necessary for fundamental scientific research and development, and talent cultivation. Top academic research institutes can play a big role in China’s efforts to reduce its dependence on external sources for cutthroat technologies like semiconductor production equipment, he says. Policies should also focus on improving the funding avenues for tech firms and scaling up their commercialization by market mechanism. “It is important to ensure that elementary education and basic sciences play a crucial role in fostering innovation,” says Se. Christopher Tremewan, secretary general of APRU, a consortium of 56 leading universities headquartered in Hong Kong, tells me that as countries commit more resources to technological innovation, it is important to ensure that new discoveries are directed at the common challenges. “Techno-nationalism will fall short of solving global crises. It is the universities that do much of the fundamental research that lies behind solutions. Organizations like the APRU are the neutral platforms for cooperation among major research universities across international borders, basically, as a forum that builds trust and a renewed commitment to multilateralism.” Tremewan says that universities in Hong Kong are already playing a pivotal role in using their research expertise to foster technological innovation. In the Asia-Pacific region, universities are vital in understanding and preparing for complex problems from extreme climate events to the COVID-19 pandemic. The key, though, is to leverage the best research and ensure that the increases in public funding have maximum impact for the common good, thereby building trust and cooperation internationally, he says. China’s 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), which is due to be ratified by the National People’s Congress, is expected to give top priority to science, technology and innovation, and recognize them as critical to achieving technology self-reliance. The plan is based on dual circulation with the emphasis on internal circulation: domestic technology development, production, and consumption. “With this new five-year plan, China is marking a strategic shift in priorities towards national and industrial security and is set to become increasingly self-sufficient technologically and less reliant on exporting to the West,” says Nidhi from GlobalData. While the draft plan does not specify what technologies will gain focus over the next five years, it however makes it clear that investments in technology will continue to grow, and will focus on frontier fields like artificial intelligence, integrated circuits, aerospace technology, quantum computing, deep earth and sea exploration, adds Nidhi. China has already done well in pioneering and upgrading innovation, like high-speed railways and some 5G-enabled technologies. But in the long term, fundamental breakthroughs are necessary as only such moves can trigger profound effects to the economy and industry, pretty much like how the invention of electricity and computers changed human life, says Se.
March 27, 2021more
APRU on The Business Times: Safeguarding Our Future With AI Will Need More Regulations
March 18, 2021more
APRU on South China Morning Post: Governments, business and academia must join hands to build trust in AI’s potential for good
By Christopher Tremewan December 31, 2020 Original post in SCMP. Concerns about the predatory use of technology, privacy intrusions and worsening social inequalities must be jointly addressed by all stakeholders in society – through sensible regulations, sound ethical norms and international collaboration. In September, it was reported that Zhu Songchun, an expert in artificial intelligence at UCLA, had been recruited by Peking University. It was seen as part of the Chinese government’s strategy to become a global leader in AI, amid competition with the US for technological dominance. In the West, a new US administration has been elected amid anxiety about cyber interference. Tech giants Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google are facing antitrust accusations in the US, while the European Union has unveiled sweeping legislation to enable regulators to head off bad behaviour by big tech before it happens. Meanwhile, Shoshana Zuboff’s bestselling book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism has alerted social media users to a new economic order that “claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices”. In addition, the public is regularly bombarded with dystopian scenarios (like in Black Mirror ) about intelligent machines taking control of society, often at the service of ruling elites or criminals. The dual character of AI – its promise for social good and its threat to human society through absolute control – has been a familiar theme for some time. Also, AI systems are evolving rapidly, outpacing regulatory processes for social equity and privacy. Especially during a pandemic, the urgent question facing governments, the private sector and universities is how to promote public trust in the beneficial side of AI technologies. One way to build public trust is to deliver for the global common good, beyond national or corporate self-interest. With the world facing crises ranging from the current pandemic to worsening inequalities and the massive effects of climate change, it is obvious that no single country can solve any of them alone. The technological advances of AI already hold out promise in everything from medical diagnosis and drug development to creating smart cities and transitioning to a renewable-energy economy. MIT has reportedly developed an app that can immediately diagnose 98.5 per cent of Covid-19 infections by people just coughing into their phones. A recent report on “AI for Social Good”, co-authored by the UN, Google and the Association of Pacific Rim Universities, concluded that AI can help us “build back better” and improve the quality of life. But it also said “the realisation of social good by AI is effective only when the government adequately sets rules for appropriate use of data”. With respect to limiting intrusions on individual rights, it said that “the challenge is how to balance the reduction of human rights abuses while not suffocating the beneficial uses”. These observations go to the core of the problem. Are governments accountable in real ways to their citizens or are they more aligned with the interests of hi-tech monopolies? Who owns the new AI technologies? Are they used for concentrating power and wealth or do they benefit those most in need of them? The report recommends that governments develop abilities for agile regulation; for negotiation with interest groups to establish ethical norms; for leveraging the private sector for social and environmental good; and to build and retain local know-how. While these issues will be approached in different ways in each country, international collaboration will be essential. International organisations, globally connected social movements as well as enhanced political participation by informed citizens will be critical in shaping the environment for regulation in the public interest. At the same time, geopolitical rivalry need not constrain our building of trust and cooperation for the common good. The Covid-19 crisis has shown that it is possible for governments to move decisively towards the public interest and align new technologies to solutions that benefit everyone. We should not forget that, in January, a team of Chinese and Australian researchers published the first genome of the new virus and the genetic map was made accessible to researchers worldwide. International organisations such as the World Health Organization and international collaborations by biomedical researchers also play critical roles in building public trust and countering false information. Universities have played an important role in advancing research cooperation with the corporate sector and in bolstering public confidence that global access takes priority over the profit motive of Big Pharma. For example, the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca will be made available at cost to developing countries and can be distributed without the need for special freezers. Peking University and UCLA are cooperating with the National University of Singapore and the University of Sydney to exchange best practices on Covid-19 crisis management. Competition for international dominance in AI applications also fades as we focus on applying its beneficial uses to common challenges. Global frameworks for cooperation such as the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development or the Paris Climate Agreement set out the tasks. Google, for example, has established partnerships with universities and government labs for advanced weather and climate prediction, with one project focusing on communities in India and Bangladesh vulnerable to flooding. To deal with the use and misuse of advanced technologies like AI, we need a renewed commitment to multilateralism and to neutral platforms on which to address critical challenges. Universities that collectively exercise independent ethical leadership internationally can also, through external partnerships, help to shape national regulatory regimes for AI that are responsive to the public interest. Find out more about the UN ESCAP-APRU-Google AI for Social Good project here.
December 31, 2020more
APRU on Times Higher Education: ‘Oversight needed’ so AI can be used for good in Asia-Pacific
By Joyce Lau Original post in THE. Academics urge governments to set up frameworks for ethical use of technology and reaffirm the need for greater multidisciplinarity Asia-Pacific universities could use artificial intelligence to harness their strengths in combating epidemics and other global problems, but only if there were regulatory frameworks to ensure ethical use, experts said. Artificial Intelligence for Social Good, a nearly 300-page report by academics in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand, was launched the same day as the event, held by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Google. The research, co-published by APRU and Keio University in Japan, laid out recommendations for using AI in the region to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs). While the report outlined the great potential for AI in the region, it also said that risks must be managed, privacy concerns must be addressed and testing must be conducted before large-scale technology projects were implemented. Christopher Tremewan, APRU’s secretary general and a former vice-president at the University of Auckland, said that Pacific Rim universities “have incredible research depth in the challenges facing this region, from extreme climate events and the global Covid-19 pandemic to complex cross-border problems. Their collective expertise and AI innovation makes a powerful contribution to our societies and our planet’s health.” However, he also said there were potential problems with “rapid technological changes rolled out amid inequality and heightened international tensions”. “As educators, we know that technology is not neutral and that public accountability at all levels is vital,” he said. The APRU, which includes 56 research universities in Asia, Australasia and the west coast of the Americas, is based at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In answering questions, Dr Tremewan drew on his own observations in New Zealand and Hong Kong, two places where Covid responses have been lauded. “The feeling in Hong Kong is that there is tremendous experience from Sars,” he said, referring to a 2003 epidemic. “The universities here have capability in medical research, particularly on the structure of this type of disease, and also in public health strategy.” Meanwhile, in New Zealand, “confidence in science” and the prominence of researchers and experts speaking out aided in the public response. “Universities are playing key roles locally and internationally,” he said, adding that expertise was also needed in policy, communications and social behaviour. “The solutions are multidisciplinary, not only technological or medical.” Soraj Hongladarom, director of the Center for Ethics of Science and Technology at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, and one of the authors of the report, said their work had “broken new ground” in Asia. “We’re trying to focus on the cultural context of AI, which hasn’t been done very much in an academic context,” he said. Professor Hongladarom, a philosopher, urged greater interdisciplinarity in tackling social problems. “Engineers and computer scientists must work with social scientists, anthropologists and philosophers to look beyond the purely technical side of AI – but also at its social, cultural and political aspects,” he said. He added that policy and regulation were vital in keeping control over technology: “Every government must take action – it’s particularly important in South-east Asia.” Dr Tremewan said that, aside from crossing disciplinary boundaries, AI also had to cross national borders. “Universities have huge social power in their local contexts. So how do we bring that influence internationally?” he asked. Find out more about the UN ESCAP-APRU-Google AI for Social Good project here.
November 12, 2020more
APRU releases AI for Social Good report in partnership with UN ESCAP and Google: Report calls for AI innovation to aid post-COVID recovery
Hong Kong, November 10, 2020 – APRU partners with UN ESCAP and Google to launch the AI for Social Good report. This is the third project exploring AI’s impact on Asia-Pacific societies to offer research-based recommendations to policymakers that focus on how AI can empower work towards the 2030 UN Sustainable Development goals. With COVID-19’s ongoing social and economic fallout, the role of AI is even more pronounced in aiding recovery. Researchers’ insights underpin the report’s recommendations for developing an environment and governance framework conducive to AI for Social Good – a term encompassing increasingly rapid technological changes occurring amidst inequality, the urgent transition to renewable energy and unexpected international tensions. Chris Tremewan, Secretary General of APRU commented, “APRU members have incredible research depth in the challenges facing this region, from extreme climate events and the global COVID-19 pandemic to complex cross-border problems. Bringing their expertise and AI innovation together in a collective effort will make a powerful contribution to our societies and the health of the planet.” Jonathan Wong, Chief of Technology and Innovation, United Nations ESCAP said, “We designed the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals with a strong commitment to harness AI in support of inclusive and sustainable development while mitigating its risks. Public policies play a critical role in promoting AI for social good while motivating governments to regulate AI development and applications so that they contribute to aspirations of a sustainable future.” Dan Altman, AI Public Policy, Google shared, “Google and APRU share the belief that AI innovation can meaningfully improve people’s lives. Google introduced the AI for Social Good program to focus our AI expertise on solving humanitarian and environmental challenges. Google is excited to be working with experts across all sectors to create solutions that make the biggest impact.” The report’s multidisciplinary studies provide the knowledge and perspectives of researchers from Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand, India, and Australia. Combining local understanding with international outlook is essential for policymakers to respond with regulation that enables international tech firms to contribute to the common good. Here are the key recommendations: Multi-stakeholder governance must push innovation to realize AI’s full potential In addition to overseeing major players controlling data, governance must take manageable risks and conduct controlled testing before large scale tech implementation. Establish standardized data formats and interoperability Information asymmetries create inequities, therefore standardized data formats and interoperability between systems is critical. Address data privacy concerns and protect individual dignity Data needs anonymization, encryption, and distributed approaches. Governments must enforce privacy and individual dignity protection. Incorporating the Asian values of altruism in data governance can also help encourage data sharing for the social good. November is “AI for Social Good Month” featuring investigative discussions, conversations, and policy briefings with leading AI thinkers and doers from Asia and beyond. Visit the Summit here. View the original release here. Media contact: [email protected] / [email protected]
November 10, 2020more
AI for Social Good network releases new report
AI For Social Good, a partnership between APRU, UN ESCAP and Google, released a new report exploring the impact of AI on societies in the Asia-Pacific region and offering research-based recommendations to policymakers. Providing perspectives of multidisciplinary researchers from Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand, India, and Australia, each chapter of the report presents a unique research-based policy paper offering a set of key conclusions and policy suggestions aiming to support and inform policy makers and policy influencers. The report seeks to inform the development of governance frameworks that can help to address the risks and challenges associated with AI, while maximizing the potential of the technology to be developed and used for good. It also furthers understanding for developing the enabling environment in which policymakers can promote the growth of an AI for Social Good ecosystem in their respective countries in terms of AI inputs (e.g., data, computing power, and AI expertise) and ensuring that the benefits of AI are shared widely across society. The AI for Social Good network was launched in December 2018 under the academic lead of Keio University Vice-President, Jiro Kokuryo. It aims to provide a multi-year platform to enable scholars and experts to collaborate with policymakers to generate evidence and cross-border connections. “We worked very hard to come up with a set of recommendations that will make AI truly contribute to the well-being of humankind. I hope this voice from Asia will be heard not only within the region, but by people around the world.” ‘Governments are encouraged to invest in promoting AI solutions and skills that bring greater social good and help us “build back better” as we recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.’ said Mia Mikic, Director of the United Nations ESCAP’s Trade, Investment and Innovation Division. To share the report’s findings with policymakers, industry leaders, and academics from around the region, the Virtual AI for Social Good Summit will be held in November. The series will feature working and policy insight panels with details to be shared on apru.org soon. Find the full report here. See a press release from Keio University here.
September 9, 2020more
DiDi and APRU strengthen partnership with MoU and new APEC project
APRU and Beijing-based mobile transportation platform Didi Chuxing (DiDi) have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen collaboration and the development of activities and projects. Currently both organizations are contributing to the APEC Public-Private Dialogue on Sharing Economy and Digital Technology Connectivity for Inclusive Development, which aims to advance economic, financial, and social inclusion in the APEC member economies. APRU participated in the APEC Public-Private Dialogue’s latest seminar with the theme, “Capitalize on Research and Development.” Held on February 12 in Putrajaya, Malaysia, the seminar brought together stakeholders in the science and technology innovation sector to strengthen the ecosystem in promoting R&D and enhancing connectivity within the innovation value chain. “APRU’s large network of researchers, policy-makers and private sector representatives in the Asia-Pacific region makes it the ideal partner for us to jointly explore opportunities for collaborative research, joint projects, education and training, talent development, and academic exchanges, as well as technology transfer and innovation,” said Leju Ma, DiDi’s Senior Expert in International Industries. “We are looking forward to the significant input that APRU will provide for our projects,” he added. On the list of future projects to be explored and developed is the joint organization of side events at relevant UN conferences and cooperation on developing future APEC workshops. Other collaboration opportunities will be provided by the DiDi Engine Initiative, which includes international youth exchange and technology competitions, regional joint AI laboratories, women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment programs, as well as APRU’s support for DiDi’s engagements related to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). In view of the Covid-19 outbreak, APRU and DiDi will work together to share best practice on non-pharmaceutical prevention and control measures with entities outside China, especially in the mobility sector. Find out the report published by APEC Policy Partnership on Science Technology and Innovation. About DiDi https://www.didiglobal.com Didi offers on-demand taxi-hailing, private car-hailing, bike-sharing, automotive solutions and smart transportation services to over 550 million users across China, Japan, Latin America and Australia, delivering over 10 billion rides per year.
April 21, 2020more
AI For Everyone: New Open Access Book
APRU is pleased to announce the new release of the book “AI for Everyone: benefitting from and building trust in the technology.” Published on January 28, 2020, the book was written by Jiro Kokuryo, Catharina Maracke, and Toby Walsh. The project was led by project co-chairs and AI-experts Professors Jiro Kokuryo (Keio) and Toby Walsh (UNSW). The open-access book features APRU’s project and introduces its findings. The project is the result of a discussion series organized by APRU and Google. “Experts from APRU universities greatly contributed to this foundational project in which we built upon for projects such as the Transformation of Work and AI for Social Good,” said Christina Schönleber, APRU Senior Director (Policy and Programs). “It enabled us to actively pursue opportunities to interact with policymakers, businesses, and leaders in society to address major AI-related fears, such as of ‘black box’ machines manipulating human society, unethical uses of AI, and that AI may widen the gap between the rich and the poor,” she added. The project’s first meeting was held in late-2017, laying the groundwork for the crafting of a series of working papers and their resulting policy recommendations. As many as twelve of these AI-related working papers were reviewed at the second meeting in September, reflecting eager participation by APRU members. An accompanying project workshop took on key questions, such as how to establish more trust in AI and how to amplify human intelligence through the use of AI toward beneficial ends. The project’s preliminary outcome was prominently featured by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council’s State of the Region Report 2018-2019, which fed into the 30th APEC ministerial meeting held in the following month in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. “The title of our book reflects the belief that access to the benefits of AI should be transparent, open, and understood by and accessible to all people regardless of their geographic, generational, economic, cultural and other social background,” said Kokuryo. “We wrote it to strengthen awareness about the nature of the technology, governance of the technology, and its development process, with a focus on responsible development,” he added. The book is available as a paperback edition at cost price. Please see the project overview and policy statement here. Keio and UNSW are the APRU member university leads of this project. Other involved APRU member institutions include: The Australian National University (Australia), Far Eastern Federal University (Russia), Peking University (China), The Chinese University of Hong Kong, National University of Singapore, Technologico de Monterrey (Mexico), Fudan University (China), University of California Irvine (USA), Universidad de Chile (Chile), UNSW Sydney (Australia), and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
February 1, 2020more
Accelerating Indonesia’s Human Capital Transformation for Future of Work
The final in a series of dissemination events presenting the policy recommendations and research from The Transformation of Work project took place on Tuesday, December 3, 2019 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Christina Schönleber, Director (Policy and Programs) talked in the opening of the Forum about the research conducted by APRU on the impact of automation on the future work on the society and the economies across the Asia Pacific region. The research is available in the APRU published book titled “Transformation of Work in Asia-Pacific in the 21st Century”. Digitalization and automation are transforming the world on unprecedented scale and speed, and the impacts are felt in all levels of society. Additionally, recent technological advances such as AI-driven innovation and machine learning require a new set of skills for the future workforce. The future workforce will see the transformation of jobs as technological change creates surpluses of workers and skills in some occupations while creating demands for new skills and jobs in others. The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), supported by Google, has conducted a serial of discussions and policy recommendations under Forum Kebijakan Ketenagakerjaan (FKK), a multi-stakeholder platform in labor issues through discussion and dissemination. Yose Rizal Damuri (CSIS) opened the public seminar and introduce FKK which is to stimulate discussion, accommodate multi-stakeholders perspectives and formulate policy recommendations from evidence-based research. The forum has been successfully held and produce some fruitful debates among researchers, policymakers, the private sector and labor unions. After that, Christina Schönleber (APRU) explains that APRU has conducted a research on the impact of automation on the future work on the society and the economies across the Asia Pacific and held discussions between academia, governments, and industries. The objectives of the projects are to understand digital technology, automation challenges and benefits in relation to the future of work; inform the discussion among researchers, policy-makers and civil society on possible direction and solutions; and publish and widely disseminate a data-driven study with key focus on APAC region. Faizal Yahya (National University of Singapore) explains that Singapore has a tiny workforce and an aging demographic. There is a growing fear of losing jobs and influx of foreign laborers which creates a negative impression that their jobs are taken away by foreigners. Also, it is necessary to create new jobs for old workers or to reskill them. To prepare for the changes in the future. The government has undertaken several initiatives. First, the government launched SkillsFuture in 2015 to give training to graduates and provide courses for reskilling especially for mature workers under the Ministry of Education. From the demand side, the Committee of Future Economy (CFE) created an Industry Transformation Map (ITM) and assigned different agencies to help different industries sectors since there are more SMEs than larger companies in Singapore. Thirdly, to support the manufacturing sector, the government establish Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI), which helps companies to architect their industry 4.0 roadmap through The Prioritization Matrix. Lastly, the government tried to solve the mature workers’ problem through Workforce Singapore (WSG) Adapt and Grow Initiative. The Forum hosted speakers from Asian Institute of Management, National University of Singapore (NUS), The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), in addition to a number of Indonesian educational organizations. The speakers addressed important topics related to the impact of recent technological advances (i.e. AI-driven innovation, machine learning, etc.) on the workforce. They highlighted main challenges faced by the workforce including obsolete education material, expiration of skills in the light of rapid technological changes, and heavy rates of young unemployment in Indonesia. “Education will have to be reimagined”, said Jikeyong Kang from the Asian Institute of Management. The interactive talk-show panel drew participants’ attention to developing solutions to the discussed challenges. The expansion of the Indonesian Government effort to keep the education system updated and relevant to the industry demands was suggested. Meanwhile, continuous training of existing workforce is necessary to keep up with technological trends and deal with the lack of talent in certain fields.
January 13, 2020more
AI Policy for the Future: Can we trust AI?
AI Policy for the Future: Can we trust AI? Date & Time: August 23 from 9 am to 5 pm Venue: Korea Press Center, 20th floor, International Conference Hall Seoul National University Initiative will host a one-day conference focusing on AI trust for the future. The conference will invite AI experts and scholars from academia, industry, and government to address the current concerns on accountability and enhance social beneficial outcomes related to AI governance through technology, policy, and law. Considering the critical issues such as fairness and equity will be analyzed on both a macro and micro level to develop key recommendations on the responsible use of AI. Find out the program here. Visit the website at
August 16, 2019more
Automation and the Transformation of Work in Asia-Pacific in the 21st Century
July 31, 2019more
APRU Partners to Close the Digital Skills Gap at APEC
APRU members participated in the APEC Closing the Digital Skills Gap Forum, held in Singapore in mid-July. The forum gathered representatives from 16 APEC economies to explore policy options that can strengthen digital skills and the digital economy, with Project DARE taking central stage. APRU members participating in the forum were Bernard Tan, Senior Vice Provost of the National University of Singapore; Fidel Nemazo, Vice Chancellor for Research and Development of the University of Philippines (UP); Eugene Rex Jalao, Associate Professor of University of the Philippines; and Kar Yan Tam, Dean of the School of Business and Management of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). “With the imminent need to facilitate the transition of workforce in the age of disruption, Project DARE provides a tripartite platform for governments, academia and business across the APEC economies to discuss human capital development in data science and analytics,” said Kar Yan Tam. “This platform connects all of us closely together to manage the transformation wisely,” he added. Project DARE (abbreviation of data analytics raising employment) is an APEC initiative seeking to facilitate development of a data science and analytics (DSA)-enabled workforce across the APEC region to address the skills shortage in DSA. The Closing the Digital Skills Gap survey launched by the forum and prepared by Wiley, an education and professional training solutions provider, showed that 75 per cent of respondents – comprised of employers, government officials, and academics – perceive the existence of a significant skills mismatch. At the forum, participants finalized a roadmap to support and scale-up skills development and reskilling programs carried out by employers, governments, and educational institutions across APEC. Tam explained how HKUST has leveraged the Recommended APEC Data Science & Analytics Competencies to inform curriculum in data science and technology, including a full undergraduate degree track. Fellow APRU member Jalao highlighted Philippine projects in high-impact investments in digital upskilling and reskilling, including an ambitious pilot model to train 30,000 workers over three years led by the Analytics Association of the Philippines (AAP). Indeed, the pilot project has been one of the first models to implement the Recommended APEC Data Science & Analytics Competencies. The Project DARE timeline for 2018 entailed more than 60 participants sharing models how to bridge the digital skills gap, as well as the development of case studies on Recommended APEC Data and Science & Analytics (DSA) Competencies. On the 2019 timeline are the presentation, finalization and beginning implementation of a collective version and roadmap in APEC to support efforts to upskill and reskill at scale. Implementation of the roadmap is envisioned for the 2020-2025 period.
July 20, 2019more
Kick-off for AI for Social Good―A United Nations ESCAP-APRU-Google Collaborative Network and Project
On Wednesday, June 5, a kick-off meeting for the “AI for Social Good ― a United Nations ESCAP-APRU-Google Collaborative Network and Project” was held at Keio University’s Mita Campus. The project brought together 8 scholars from all across Asia Pacific under the academic lead of Keio’s Vice-President Professor Jiro Kokuryo for the meeting, with the support of UN ESCAP and Google, and organization by the APRU-Association of Pacific Rim Universities. The scholars, encompassing a wide range of academic backgrounds from technical aspects of AI such as computer science to ethical views including philosophy, had lively discussions on their research plans as well as providing mutual feedback, alongside representatives from the project organizations ― UN ESCAP, Google, and APRU. Their work at meetings set to take place over the coming year will be published as a policy recommendation paper for government policymakers and other stakeholders including those in industry, NGOs, and academic institutions. Originally published by Keio University Vice-President Professor Jiro Kokuryo Chairs Meeting of AI for Social Good ― A United Nations ESCAP-APRU-Google Collaborative Network and Project
June 15, 2019more