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, 2022more
Heinrich Böll Stiftung and APRU Discuss Risk-based Governance of AI in First Joint Webinar
May 12, 2022more
APRU on The Business Times: Safeguarding Our Future With AI Will Need More Regulations
March 18, 2021more
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, 2020more
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, 2020more
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: [email protected] / [email protected]
November 10, 2020more
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, 2020more
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, 2019more
APRU stepping up research infrastructure and network to build technology systems free from human rights risks
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.
August 15, 2019more
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, 2019more
APRU Partners with United Nations ESCAP and Google on AI for Social Good
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to benefit many sectors while it may greatly impact societal structures. For example, it is widely expected that the future of work will be considerably transformed by the ubiquity of AI in this digital era. However, current research remains limited in terms of how AI can positively transform economies and societies, while addressing governance and policy needs, as well as assessing key areas of concern relating to the technology. In order to fill this gap, APRU, United Nations ESCAP and Google have come together to set up a new research network, called, ‘AI for Social Good’, which was officially launched at the start of the Asia-Pacific AI for Social Good Summit in Bangkok on December 13, 2018. Launch of the Asia-Pacific AI for Social Good Summit in Bangkok, Thailand The AI for Social Good network will provide a multi-year platform to enable scholars and experts to collaborate with policymakers to generate evidence and cross-border connections on “AI for Social Good”, while promoting an enabling policy environment at both domestic and international levels. “ESCAP has a mandate to strengthen the regional technology and innovation agenda through our role as a think tank, policy adviser and convener,” says Armida Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary. “We hope that multi-stakeholder partnerships, such as the ones we are launching here today, will support member States in their efforts to harness technology and innovation in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals.” Armida Alisjahbana, UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary Although AI’s revolutionary prowess is well known; it is yet to be extensively applied to scale and sustain impact for all in important sectors, such as education and social inclusion. The AI for Social Good collaboration is about supporting policy framework, which ultimately will benefit the population across the Asia Pacific through sharing the best practices and solutions to promote its benefits. This project is a continuation of APRU’s previous Google-collaborated AI research project, namely AI for Everyone: Benefitting from and Building Trust in the Technology. This project initiative will see scholars across the region developing and publishing a collection of research-based policy recommendation papers to influence the development of policy process to support AI for Social Good. Keio University Vice-President, Jiro Kokuryo, is the academic lead and will be supported by a Steering Committee, bringing together policymakers and experts from across Asia. Policymakers, industry, universities and other stakeholders will convene to utilize the research results to develop partnerships to grow and sustain the use of AI for social good. “This network will bring together leading academics from around the region to produce research on how to promote the use of AI for social good and how best to manage risks and concerns,” says Kent Walker, Google Senior Vice-President of Global Affairs. “It will also be a forum for these academics to discuss their research with government, civil society and the private sector.” (L-R): Jake Lucchi, Google Head of AI Policy, APAC; Jiro Kokuryo, Keio University Vice President; Christina Schönleber, APRU Director Policy and Programs; Atsuko Okuda, ESCAP Chief ICT and Development Section; Marta Pérez Cusó, UN ESCAP Economic Affairs Officer at the Asia-Pacific AI for Social Good Research Network event (L-R): Jake Lucchi, Google Head of AI Policy, APAC; Jiro Kokuryo, Keio University Vice President; Christina Schönleber, APRU Director Policy and Programs Kent Walker, Google Senior Vice President of Global Affairs AI for Social Good project’s first meeting is planned in Tokyo alongside the G20 Summit, while it is planned to hold a second meeting and stakeholder event in Bangkok, Hong Kong or Tokyo, in the winter of 2019-2020. The submitted papers will be collated into a final report to be published in June 2020, and disseminated widely by UNESCAP and Google. Find out more photos of the event here.
February 28, 2019more