Southeast Asia has historically been consumers of technology instead of providers. This often leaves it at a disadvantage in adapting to and governing the technologies that it is using to fuel national and regional growth, such as artificial intelligence (AI).
In this episode of Pretty Good Podcast, independent researcher Dr. Jun-E Tan expounds on her 2021 report with EngageMedia on the governance of AI in Southeast Asia, emphasising the importance of contextualising this technology based on what the region needs. Jun-E also discusses the need for Southeast Asian countries to look at existing mechanisms that are within their control, and how these can be used to govern AI technology in ways that protect their people.
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- This episode heavily draws from the 2021 report Governance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Southeast Asia, written in collaboration with EngageMedia. The research is part of our broader initiatives on AI; more information can be found at EngageMedia.org/AI. Jun-E’s work with EngageMedia includes:
- A two-part series on the geopolitics of AI
- A three-part series on AI ethics
- Stories In/Around the Machine, a project born out of the Minderoo AI Challenge Fund that explores the stories of how AI and machine learning systems have become entangled in the rhythms of informal work in Asia
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an important document that not only enumerates our human rights, but also emphasises that the use of technology should not violate these rights. Jun-E, however, points out in the episode that the UDHR has its own limitations and may be in need of an update, given the speed at which technology has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors.
- With the rise of digital authoritarianism amid the pandemic, governments must walk a tightrope to protect both individual privacy and national security. For example, in early 2021, the Singaporean government admitted that police also had access to COVID-19 contact tracing data for the purposes of “criminal investigation”. After public backlash, the government has since said that this data would be used only for serious crimes. In response to these events, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “There is a certain tension between individual rights and privacies, and our need to work together as a society and a community and to trust one another.”
- How can civil society from Southeast Asia ensure that its voice is heard? Jun-E says:
- Be part of bigger groups in your country and the region (and even outside the region) to continue discussions and together engage with policymakers
- Do more research and collate lived experiences that can better contextualise AI in the region
- Outside her work with EngageMedia, Jun-E has also written articles and research on:
- Digital Rights in Southeast Asia: Conceptual Framework and Movement Building (2019)
- Imagining the AI We Want: Towards a New AI Constitutionalism (2020)
- To What Extent Does Malaysia’s National Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) Policy Address AI Security Risks? (TBA)