APRU stepping up research infrastructure and network to build technology systems free from human rights risks

August 15, 2019

Hong Kong, August 9, 2019 — APRU has been doubling down on its efforts to build strategies that ensure privacy and secure technology systems—free from human rights risks. At the Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum (RBHRForum) held in mid-June in Bangkok, Thailand, APRU Director for Policy & Programs, Christina Schönleber, spoke on the challenges and risks affiliated with AI, such as the black box nature of techonologies, privacy and security concerns, and the disruptions and access to a transformed workforce. She proposed new ways for governments to adapt to the fast-changing environment to ensure new technologies have a positive impact. Schönleber advised on the ways that universities play a role in helping governments navigate this environment.

APRU is currently working with ESCAP and Google on the developing research on AI for Social Good with a focus on policy frameworks and governance. The Asia Pacific AI for Social Good initiative was officially launched by APRU, the United Nations ESCAP and Google in December last year.

“There is the existential fear that AI acts like a black box and ultimately society will be manipulated, so APRU’s main objective is to build on the research within member institutions to propose implementation of a framework certification system for trustworthy AI,” Schönleber said at a #RBHRForum panel.

“There is a lot to gain if we actually drive policy development for disruptive technologies for social good, including the education and re-education of the new and existing workforce; faster implementation of the SDGs; and more trade bargaining power to vulnerable economies against traditionally strong trading partners. We have identified these issues in our ‘Transformation of Work in the Asia Pacific‘ project,” she added.

Universities are key players alongside government and industry, given the importance for the emerging and young generations to have a high degree of digital literacy, explained Schönleber. STEM education is crucial for this as well as for the understanding of how digital tools and technologies work. Universities should take an active approach to work with schools in order to support early introduction of essential STEM skills in the primary school curricula.

“The curriculum should facilitate the development of soft skills, as the future workforce will need more creative and innovative abilities to navigate the AI era,” Schönleber said.

“Meanwhile, governments should play a key role in mitigating the psychological effects of humans’ interaction with robots by creating a supportive infrastructure to facilitate smooth transitions to digital futures,” she added.

The #RBHRForum is an an annual event co-organized by the Royal Thai Government, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), International Labour Organization (ILO), and with the participation of the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The aim is to elevate awareness and ensure effective implementation of the Business and Human Rights and Responsible Business Conduct agendas in Asia-Pacific and beyond.

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