Singapore council to assess ethical use of AI, data

Singapore government is setting up an advisory council to look at the "ethical use of artificial intelligence and data" as well as recommend codes of practice and governance.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

The Singapore government is setting up an advisory council to assess the ethical and legal use of artificial intelligence (AI) and data as well as recommend policies and governance.

This would help build "a trusted ecosystem" and ensure consumer confidence, as the country continued to develop its digital economy and new business models emerged, said industry regulator Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

It added that various stakeholders including consumers, ethics boards of private organisations, and academia would be approached for feedback--specifically, on a discussion paper to be released by the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), detailing the development and adoption of AI, and support the advisory council's efforts.

IMDA also would establish a five-year research programme focused on the governance of AI and data use.

Elaborating on the council, the government agency further noted that it would increase awareness amongst private capital firms of the need to include ethical issues when reviewing investment decisions on companies that develop or adopt AI.

A panel comprising of legal and technical experts as well as global experts also would be formed to support the advisory council.

To be led by former attorney-general V.K. Rajah, the council would comprise representatives from the private sector who specialised in AI and big data. These would be appointed by Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information, which would work alongside IMDA.

In addition, the discussion paper would propose potential governance frameworks, including risk assessment framework, for the adoption and deployment of AI and data. These would be made based on two key principles: decisions made by or with AI should be "explainable, transparent, and fair to consumers"; and all AI systems and robots as well as AI-based decisions should be "human-centric", IMDA said.

Singapore last November unveiled several initiatives aimed at driving the development and adoption of AI and data technologies in the financial sector. These included an AI and data analytics grant, managed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, to facilitate the deployment of these technologies amongst financial institutions operating in the country.

These organisations, for instance, could tap the grant to subsidise up to 50 percent of the cost of projects that used AI and data analytics, such as machine learning, natural language processing or text analytics, and neural networks.

In addition, the National Research Foundation (NRF), which sits under the Prime Minister's Office, said it would invest up to S$150 million (US$107.43 million) over five years to develop Singapore's AI capabilities. Called AI.SG, the scheme aimed to help the government resolve major challenges affecting society and industry, including in the areas of healthcare and city management.

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