IMDA kicks off initiatives to explore AI ethics and governance

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Singapore’s IMDA says it is engaging key stakeholders including government, industry, consumers and academia to collaboratively shape the government’s plans for an artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem In order to drive awareness of the benefits and understand the challenges of AI, particularly  ethics and legal issues.

According to IMDA, as Singapore develops its digital economy, a trusted ecosystem is key, where industries can benefit from innovations in technology while consumer confidence and understanding can be assured. It is thus timely to proactively discuss and address ethical issues that may arise from the use of AI and data, as new business models and innovations rapidly develop in the emergent AI space.

IMDA says it will engage relevant stakeholders through three new structured, interlinked initiatives [PDF], starting with an advisory council on the ethical use of AI and data. (Ethics in this context encompasses issues surrounding fairness, transparency and the ability to explain an AI’s decision.)

The council will be appointed by the Minister for Communications and Information to advise and work with IMDA in the areas of responsible development and deployment of AI. The advisory council will assist IMDA to:

  • Engage with relevant stakeholders such as ethics boards of commercial enterprises on ethical and related issues arising from private sector use of AI and data, and consumer advocates on consumer expectations and acceptance of such use
  • Engage the private capital community to increase awareness of the need to incorporate ethics considerations in their investment decisions into businesses which develop or adopt AI
  • Establish a legal and technical expert panel to support the advisory council, as well as a panel of international experts for global perspectives.

The advisory council will assist the Government to develop ethics standards and reference governance frameworks and publish advisory guidelines, practical guidance, and/or codes of practice for the voluntary adoption by the industry.

To support the advisory council, the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) is also putting forward a discussion paper on how a possible reference AI and data governance framework for industries could look like, as well as what elements could be included. The discussion paper will create a baseline for discussion across stakeholders, encouraging common definitions and common frames for dialogue, and is intended as a living document.

The discussion paper recommends two key principles: (1) decisions made by or with the assistance of AI should be explainable, transparent and fair to consumers, and (2) AI systems, robots and decisions should be human-centric.

The discussion paper is available online now at PDPC’s website.

IMDA will also help set up a five-year research program on the governance of AI and data use at the Singapore Management University (SMU) to conduct scholarly research on policy, legal, regulatory, governance, ethics and other issues relating to AI and data use. It will support the Advisory Council and inform Government and industry discussion on AI challenges through its research and conferences.

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