Tag #Digital Economy
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AI for Social Good: Strengthening Capabilities and Government Frameworks in Asia and the Pacific
While the AI research ecosystem is growing, there is currently still limited research into how AI can positively transform economies and societies. In light of this, United Nations ESCAP, APRU and Google partnered in 2018 to fill this void by developing a network of regional scholars to formulate policies and strategies that support, advance and maximize AI for Social Good. The project draws on new insights for the development of a set of papers and report to inform senior policy makers, experts, and governments how to cultivate an ecosystem. The aim is to foster and enhance AI for social good within economies and identify what government approaches will address the challenges associated with AI while maximizing the technology’s potential. Visit the UNESCAP-APRU-Google AI for Social Good Summit, November 2020 here. Find out more about the two AI projects with the Thai Government here. Find out more about the AI project with the Bangladeshi Government here.
The Transformation of Work in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st Century
project pioneers a multi-stakeholder approach. It provides policymak­ers and leading thinkers with a platform to exchange ideas and collaborate with researchers to tackle challenges presented by the rapid digitalization of society.   As the second element in a series of multidisciplinary collaborations funded by Google.org, The Transformation of Work in the Asia-Pacific in the 21st Century: Key Policy Implications report informs policymakers to support the creation of relevant frameworks and policies.  
Led by Professor Kar Yan Tam, Dean of the HKUST Business School and APRU, the project outputs included a series of dissemination events to brief policymakers on report findings applicable to their economies.   Part of APRU’s continued efforts to extend policy impact and maximize its network effect, the briefings aimed to enable governments to react more quickly to the impact and influence of new technological developments, share best practices and find solutions to challenges emerging from the transformation of their economies and future of work.   The content for each event of the five dissemination events was tailored to the specific needs of the host economy, drawing on the insights developed through the project.   APRU and project leads will disseminate the results to ensure that project findings are shared widely and applied to regional policy frameworks
AI For Everyone
Ensuring equitable outcomes requires active engagement with the ICT sector. In December, 2018, APRU initiated a partnership with Google on the exploration of artificial intelligence policy issues. The project will see the production of two policy research projects. The first focuses on the social implications of artificial intelligence and the future of work, the second project seeks to understand how society can maximize artificial intelligence’s potential for an equitable future.   Collaborators from the APRU network began working on the first project, AI for Everyone: Benefitting From and Building Trust in the Technology, holding the first workshop on artificial intelligence accessibility and governance on December 1, 2017, at Keio University, Tokyo; co-chaired by artificial intelligence experts Professors Jiro Kokuryo (Keio)and Toby Walsh (UNSW Sydney). The project will deliver a series of working papers, resulting in policy recommendations to be published and widely disseminated to governments and civil society.    
AI for everyone: benefitting from and building trust in the technology Increase access to the benefits of artificial intelligence. Build awareness about the nature of the technology. Disseminate key findings feeding into policy discourse and dialogue.
AI For Social Good
From computer science, big data to robotics and AI, technology is changing faster than ever before. We are in the midst of a revolution that transforms the way we live, work, and relate to one another. Perhaps in no other area is it more essential for APRU members to bring their research and knowledge capabilities than in the realm of the Digital Economy. APRU strives to help governments make informed decisions, and support companies at the forefront of these technologies navigate through the moral and ethical questions and implications. AI offers the possibility of providing a myriad of technological solutions to today’s complex challenges in achieving Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and can help societies “build back better” as they recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to these opportunities APRU has been working in partnership with United Nations ESCAP and Google.org to mobilize the intellectual resources of key universities in the Asia-Pacific to positively influence the Digital Economy agenda and its governance and to support, advance and maximize AI for Social Good.
Regulating AI: Debating Approaches and Perspectives from Asia and Europe
May 5, 2022 - June 15, 2022
Call For Expression of Interest for 'AI For Social Good Project' with the Bangladesh Government
  The call for EOIs is closed.
March 30, 2022 - April 24, 2022
Call For Expression of Interest for 'AI For Social Good Project' with the Thai Government
The call for EOIs is closed.
January 28, 2022 - February 22, 2022
UN ESCAP-APRU-Google AI for Social Good Summit, November 2020
October 22, 2020 - November 26, 2020
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, 2022
Heinrich Böll Stiftung and APRU Discuss Risk-based Governance of AI in First Joint Webinar
The Hong Kong office of the Germany-based Heinrich Böll Stiftung (hbs) and APRU successfully concluded the first in a series of three webinars on regulating artificial intelligence (AI). Held on May 5 under the theme Risk-based Approach to AI Regulation, the event constituted a valuable Asia-Europe platform for the exchange of insights on the risks that are associated with AI and the appropriate regulatory responses. The webinar series comes against the backdrop of AI reaching a stage of maturity and extensive application across supply chains, public governance, media and entertainment. While industries and societies are quick in the uptake of AI, governments struggle to develop appropriate regulatory frameworks to prevent immense possible harm resulting from mismanaged AI. APRU has been pursuing debates in the field of AI policies and ethics since 2016, and APRU in collaboration with UN ESCAP and Google has set up the AI for Social Good network. “This joint webinar series comes at the perfect time to bring together experts from Europe and leading thinkers from the highly diverse Asia Pacific region. We are looking to apply what we have learned to actively support the development and implementation of regulatory frameworks and polices that ensure that AI technology is used for the good of society,” said APRU Secretary General Chris Tremewan, emphasizing the importance of collaboration across regional boundaries. The webinar was moderated by Zora Siebert, Head of Programme, EU Democracy and Digital Policy, Heinrich Böll Stiftung European Union. Siebert pointed out that the European Commission has unveiled its draft AI Act (AIA) in April 2021, accelerating an active shaping process in the European Parliament. Siebert noted that policymakers in the U.S. and the EU have been keen to align on AI policy, with both sides wishing to enhance international cooperation. Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence, University of New South Wales, explained that AI can hardly be regulated in a generic way but will require novel regulative approaches instead. “Since AI is a platform, it is going to be much like electricity that is in all our devices, and there is no generic way to regulate electricity,” Walsh said. “The EU AI Act will set an important precedent, but it will depend on how it is going to be implemented and on the sorts of expertise the EU is going to have, because the people who are going to be regulated have vast resources,” he added. Alexandra Geese, Member of the European Parliament for the Greens EFA and coordinator for the Greens EFA in the AI in the Digital Age Special Committee (AIDA), picked up on Walsh’s electricity metaphor, stressing that “we want to be the ones who switch the lights on and off, as opposed to leaving the decisions to the machines.” Jiro Kokuryo, Professor at the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University in Japan, provided an alternative perspective from East Asia, explaining that the society and the technologies should be allowed to co-evolve rather than be forced into a static process. “Nevertheless, Japan aligns completely with the EU in terms of human rights protection, and the EU’s risk-based approach is also agreeable,” Kokuryo said. The second webinar will be held on May 25 on the topic Explainable AI. The proposals of “explainable AI” and “trustworthy AI” are initiatives to create AI applications that are transparent, interpretable, and explainable to users and operations managers. The final webinar will be held on June 15 on the topic Protection of Data Rights for Citizens and Users. The webinar 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 May 25th 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
May 12, 2022
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, 2020
Automation and the Transformation of Work in Asia-Pacific in the 21st Century
The APRU Report, Transformation of Work in Asia-Pacific in the 21st Century, was launched in Singapore on July 11, 2019. Dr Faizal bin Yahya, Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), contributed Singapore’s case studies to the sixth chapter of the report, which highlights the advances Singapore has made in introducing digitalization in its economy and offered suggestions on future related initiatives. This report also emphasized the need for greater synergy between academia and industry to help workers remain employable in a fast-evolving business environment and a digital economy. The event started with an overview of APRU and project developments introduced by the APRU International Secretariat. Follow up the project’s major findings and policy recommendations were presented by Prof Tam Kar-Yan who is the project lead of this collaborative work and the Dean of the Business School, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Dr Faizal was a moderator in the following panel chairing an in-depth discussion on Singapore’s cases. The panelists included Mr Patrick Tay, Director of Legal and Strategy and Assistant Secretary-General of National Trades Union Congress, Dr Jaclyn Lee, Chief Human Resources Officer and Senior Fellow and SUTD Academy of Singapore University of Technology and Design and, Mr Abhijit Chavan, Director of Intelligent Automation, PwC South East Asia Consulting. The key themes behind the ensuing discussions revolved around a mindset shifting and industry transformation. Most participants agreed that it was important to have leaders with a long-term vision within organizations to promote digital transformation in the workplace in an organic and non-hostile approach. It was noted that many people especially workers were unaware of the changes were occurring. As such, most of them were unprepared when disruptions impacted their work or displaced them. Adapting to a transformative work environment is also important. There has been an accelerated growth in technology advancements to a point that pessimism tends to dominate the minds of workers that they fear many jobs will be automated away. It is, therefore, necessary to equip workers with relevant new skills that are needed for the digital economy. The training of workers necessitates the transformation of educational institutions. Graduates now need to be equipped with broader skillsets to promote flexibility and agility in a transformative landscape. Computational skills are also necessary in many fields such as human resources though it should be introduced in a way where there is buy-in from the workers themselves.   See the photos here.
July 31, 2019
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, 2020
APRU on The Business Times: Safeguarding Our Future With AI Will Need More Regulations
Original post in The Business Times. More has to be done to ensure that AI is used for social good. A SILVER lining emerging from Covid-19’s social and economic fallout is the unprecedented application of artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data technology to aid recovery and enable governments and companies to effectively operate. However, as AI and Big Data are rapidly adopted, their evolution is far outpacing regulatory processes for social equity, privacy, and political accountability, fuelling concern about their possible predatory use. No matter whether contributing to essential R&D for coronavirus diagnostic tools or helping retailers and manufacturers transform their processes and the global supply chain, AI’s impressive achievements do not fully allay anxieties around their perceived dark side. Public concern about the threats of AI and Big Data ranges from privacy breaches to dystopian takes on the future that account for a technological singularity. Meanwhile, there is fairly strong sentiment that tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Apple have too much unaccountable power. Amid rising antitrust actions in the US and legislative pushback in Europe, other firms like Microsoft, Alibaba and Tencent also risk facing similar accusations. Despite their advancements, breakthrough technologies always engender turbulence. The pervasiveness of AI across all aspects of life and its control by elites, raise the question of how to ensure its use for social good. For the ordinary citizen, justifiable suspicion of corporate motives can also render them prey to misinformation. Multilateral organisations have played critical roles in countering false claims and building public trust, but there is more to be done. AI FOR SOCIAL GOOD Against this backdrop, APRU (the Association of Pacific Rim Universities), the United Nations ESCAP and Google came together in 2018 to launch an AI for Social Good partnership to bridge the gap between the growing AI research ecosystem and the limited study into AI’s potential to positively transform economies and societies. Led by Keio University in Japan, the project released its first flagship report in September 2020 with assessments of the current situation and the first-ever research-based policy recommendations on how governments, companies and universities can develop AI responsibly. Together they concluded that countries effective in establishing enabling policy environments for AI that both protect against possible risks and leverage it for social and environmental good will be positioned to make considerable leaps towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These include providing universal healthcare, ensuring a liveable planet, and decent work opportunities for all. However, countries that do not create this enabling environment risk forgoing the potential upsides of AI and may also bear the brunt of its destructive and destabilising effects: from weaponised misinformation, to escalating inequalities arising from unequal opportunities, to the rapid displacement of entire industries and job classes. WAY FORWARD Understanding of the long-term implications of fast-moving technologies and effectively calibrating risks is critical in advancing AI development. Prevention of bias and unfair outcomes produced by AI systems is of top priority, while government and private sector stakeholders should address the balance between data privacy, open data and AI growth. For governments, it will be tricky to navigate this mix. The risk is that sluggish policy responses will make it impossible to catch up with AI’s increasingly rapid development. We recommend governments establish a lead public agency to guard against policy blind spots. These lead agencies will encourage “data loops” that provide feedback to users on how their data are being used and thus facilitate agile regulation. This is necessary due to AI’s inherently rapid changing nature and the emergence of aspects that may not have been obvious even weeks or months earlier. Another important ability that governments have to acquire is the ability to negotiate with interest groups and ethical considerations. Otherwise, progress of promising socially and environmentally beneficial AI applications ranging from innovative medical procedures to new transportation options can be blocked by vested interests or a poor understanding of the trade-offs between privacy and social impact. Governments should also strengthen their ability to build and retain local technical know-how. This is essential, given that AI superpower countries are built on a critical mass of technical talent that has been trained, attracted to the country, and retained. DIASPORA OF TALENT Fortunately, many countries in Asia have a diaspora of talent who have trained in AI at leading universities and worked with leading AI firms. China has shown how to target and attract these overseas Chinese to return home by showcasing economic opportunities and building confidence in the prospects of a successful career and livelihood. Ultimately, for any emerging technology to be successful, gaining and maintaining public trust is crucial. Covid-19 contact tracing applications are a good case in point, as transparency is key to gaining and maintaining public trust in their deployment. With increased concerns about data privacy, governments can explain to the public the benefits and details of how the tracing application technology works, as well as the relevant privacy policy and law that protects data. To deal with the use and misuse of advanced technologies such as AI, we need renewed commitment to multilateralism and neutral platforms on which to address critical challenges. At the next level, the United Nations recently launched Verified, an initiative aimed at delivering trusted information, advice and stories focused on the best of humanity and opportunities to ‘build back better’, in line with the SDGs and the Paris agreement on climate change. It also invites the public to help counter the spread of Covid-19 misinformation by sharing factual advice with their communities. The education sector is playing its part to facilitate exchange of ideas among thought leaders, researchers, and policymakers to contribute to the international public policy process. I am hopeful that universities will be able to partner with government, the private sector and the community at large in constructing a technological ecosystem serving the social good. The writer is secretary general of APRU (the Association of Pacific Rim Universities)
March 18, 2021
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, 2021
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, 2020
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, 2020
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: jack.ng@apru.org / marisa@plug.agency
November 10, 2020
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, 2020
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, 2020
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 https://bit.ly/31A1iG9
August 16, 2019
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, 2019
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, 2019