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“From Paper to Practice: Utilizing the ASEAN Guide on Artificial Intelligence (AI) Governance and Ethics” by Kristina Fong


• The rapid development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies has been nothing less of awe-inspiring. Policymakers are put in a bind as debates over how the deployment of these AI systems is to be managed — with good governance and ethical considerations in mind, and without stifling innovation.

• ASEAN’s response has been the formulation of the ASEAN Guide on AI Governance and Ethics, or the ASEAN AI Guide. This Guide serves more as a “practical guide” for organizations involved in the development and deployment of AI for commercial and non-military or dual-use applications, as opposed to a policy playbook for governments. Though voluntary in application, it does have some positive attributes including laying out the groundwork for regionwide discussions around AI governance and ethics issues, promoting human involvement in AI system management and having an ecosystem approach to policy.

• For the implementation of the Guide to be effective, certain notable aspects should be taken into consideration. Firstly, the additional costs organizations will bear in putting into place the checks and balances premised by the guide should be reassessed, especially the disproportionate impact these will have on MSMEs. Additionally, labour availability for these suggested governance mechanisms may be lacking, with rising skills and human resource gaps in integral areas such as cybersecurity. Moreover, on a national level, policymakers should be wary of potential disparities between institutional and regulatory maturity for AI system implementation relative to business readiness for implementation on the ground.

• For the ASEAN AI Guide to translate into actionable outcomes, some public policy areas warrant additional consideration. Firstly, some focus will need to be redirected to ex-post regulations, such as legal recourse for AI-generated Intellectual Property (IP) infringement. Furthermore, how new technologies and human capital can be leveraged to better manage potential ill-effects of AI system deployment should be given more focus, along with keeping tabs on psychological changes among different segments of society with greater AI system usage. Lastly, the ASEAN AI Guide should be used as a basis for greater regional engagement in this integral area.

Trends in Southeast Asia 2024/18, June 2024

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