As New Chair Of The Global Partnership On AI, India Can Help Set Humane Priorities, Veering Away From Big Biz Interests

by Anand Parthasarathy - Nov 25, 2022 04:04 PM +05:30 IST
As New Chair Of The Global Partnership On AI, India Can Help Set Humane Priorities, Veering Away From Big Biz InterestsAI for global good, not corporate bottom lines (Compiled from GPAI)
Snapshot
  • At the Tokyo meeting of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, India has taken over the chair for the next year.

    Themes of GPAI are closely aligned with India’s concerns regarding scope for misuse of AI by corporate interests and its potential to address climate change, healthcare challenges and social media abuse.

Just over two years old, the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence ( GPAI, pronounced ‘gee-pay’), a multi-stake holder initiative, currently engaging 29 nations, had hitherto leaned on the leadership and resources of developed nations like Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and United States.

So, it is a remarkable testament to India’s proven strength in cutting edge technologies like AI, that for its third year, the partnership has handed over to India, the baton to lead its activities — Information Technology (IT) Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar, assumed the chair for 2023, on behalf of the nation (albeit through virtual participation), at the annual meeting of GPAI which was held in Tokyo, Japan this week.

IT Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar took part, virtually, in the Tokyo meeting of the GPAI where India assumed the Chair for the year 2023.
IT Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar took part, virtually, in the Tokyo meeting of the GPAI where India assumed the Chair for the year 2023.

Mr. Chandrasekhar said: “We will work in close cooperation with member states to put in place a framework around which the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be exploited for the good of the citizens and consumers across the globe — and ensure that there are adequate guardrails to prevent misuse and user harm.”

In a closing declaration, on 22 November, the participating ministers reaffirmed their commitment to AI principles, “which are based on human-centred values, protecting dignity and well-being and promoting trustworthy, responsible and sustainable use of artificial intelligence.”

They also committed their respective nations to “protecting and promoting human-centred values and democracy that underpin an inclusive, development-oriented, sustainable and peaceful society.”

Crucially the members opposed “unlawful and irresponsible use of artificial intelligence and other technologies, which is not in line with our shared values.”

This is stark recognition that the hype regarding AI’s power for good, notwithstanding, the agenda has been known to be often hijacked by corporate interests who see in AI, a business opportunity rather than a  powerful tool for doing good.

GPAI is a combined attempt by governments to wrest back the initiative and reorient the goals of AI, putting people rather than corporations at its epicentre.

The partnership has decided to concentrate on four themes: Responsible AI, Data governance, Future of Work and Innovation & Commercialization.(GPAI's background YouTube video here)

Four themes of the Global Partnership on AI
Four themes of the Global Partnership on AI

An examination of the projects undertaken or in progress at GPAI so far, shows very interesting synergies with the Indian government’s own concerns and priorities as articulated in IndiaAI.

IndiaAI is the joint initiative of the Ministry of Information Technology (MeitY), the National e-Governance Division (NeGD) and the IT industry body, NASSCOM.

Among the current projects where India with its new mandate as chair could make useful contributions drawing on her own experience and  storehouse of innovation are:

AI For Public Domain Drug Discovery

The GPAI working group in its latest report does not pull any punches:

“The current drug discovery market is not responding sufficiently to health care needs where it is not adequately lucrative to do so.

Unfortunately, there are a number of important yet non-lucrative fields of research in domains including pandemic prevention and antimicrobial resistance, with major current and future costs for society.

In these domains, where high-risk public health needs are being met with low R&D investment, government intervention is critical.”

AI And Climate Change

The group report points to a failure to assume the cost of greenhouse gases emitted by developed nations:

“There is a general market failure of not properly pricing the negative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. This yields a specific market failure regarding the research, innovation and deployment of AI technologies that can help fight climate change.”

The implication is unstated but obvious — Rich nations have a vested interest in not adequately researching greenhouse gases because ignorance is bliss. India can play a role in resetting priorities.

AI And Social Media

This again is a subject of deep concern in India which contends with mass misinformation centred around elections, civil unrest and other hot button issues.

The working group on social media in its most recent report states:

“Much of the appeal of social media platforms comes from their ability to deliver content that is tailored to individual users. This ability is provided in large part by AI systems called recommender systems… They rank amongst the most pervasive and influential AI systems in the world today.

The starting point for our project is a concern that recommender systems may lead users in the direction of harmful content of various kind, focussed on the domain of terrorist and violent extremist content.”

The government’s announcement this week on its new international mandate suggests that “AI is expected to add US $967 billion to Indian economy by 2035 and US $450–500 billion to India’s GDP by 2025, accounting for 10 per cent of the country’s USD 5 trillion GDP target.” 

But it is not only about money. Speaking about India’s upcoming role as GPAI chair, in a Doordarshan TV programme that he linked in a tweet,  Abhishek Singh, chief executive officer of Digital India and NeGD  reiterated India’s resolve to subtly reset the global agenda in AI:

“We will be focusing on bringing a greater involvement of the global south in the conversation regarding the use of AI for solving societal problems, harnessing Indian entrepreneurs and AI startups…We will be ensuring that concerns of developing countries are put on par with those of developed countries.”

For India to align her own priorities with a humane global vision for Artificial Intelligence is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Anand Parthasarathy is managing director at Online India Tech Pvt Ltd and a veteran IT journalist who has written about the Indian technology landscape for more than 15 years for The Hindu.

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