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Excerpt: Geopolitics of AI in Southeast Asia

The US and China are leading the race to dominate the artificial intelligence (AI) space in Southeast Asia. Both countries boast cutting-edge hardware, research, and massive AI-ready data sets that can fuel technological development in a region comprising mostly of technology users rather than producers. This tech competition has strategic implications for Southeast Asia and raises questions on national sovereignty and digital colonisation.

EngageMedia’s research on the governance of AI in Southeast Asia is featured in an article published in foreign affairs news magazine The Diplomat. Writing about the geopolitics of AI in the region, researcher Dr Jun-E Tan discussed China’s and the US’ strategies for asserting dominance in the AI and tech space, and how this tech rivalry will impact the governments of Southeast Asia as they weigh the implications of choosing the technology of one country over the other.

Drawing from the research, Tan noted that the geopolitics discourse is a “complex interplay of state and market forces working together and against each other”. Citing respondents from the report, Tan also highlighted the importance of creating a strong regulatory and policy foundation locally, “so that data protection and technology usage do not merely rely on the ethics or goodwill of the owners of the technologies, whether they be American, Chinese, or from another nation”.

She added:

Southeast Asian nations must find ways to identify and address some of the inherent weaknesses and challenges that undermine their capacity to plan for and support the adoption of AI technologies. This will enable them to reap the benefits of AI on their own terms and find their place in a future AI ecosystem dominated by the two superpowers.

Read the full post on The Diplomat. The article is part of EngageMedia’s broader efforts to document how AI affects Southeast Asia, from its benefits and uses, to its complications and dangers.