• Saturday, June 15, 2024
businessday logo


How developing countries can regulate artificial intelligence, other emerging technologies

The legal and business risks in the application of AI systems


Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies such as, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, big data, cybersecurity, robotics, and virtual reality (VR) have incredible transformational effects in different areas such as the automotive industry, healthcare and scientific research, Media and entertainment, Climate science, meteorology, and education.

In the automotive industry synthetic data produced by AI can run simulations and train autonomous vehicles. In healthcare and scientific research: scientists can use AI to model protein sequences, discover new molecules, or suggest new drug compounds to test, while doctors and practitioners can use AI to analyze images to aid in diagnoses. In Media and entertainment, AI can be used to quickly, easily, and more cheaply generate content, or to enhance the work of creatives like writers and designers. In Climate Science and Meteorology: AI can simulate natural disasters, forecast the weather, and model different climate scenarios. While in education: AI can be used to supplement classroom learning with one-to-one tutoring via a chatbot or to create course materials, lesson plans, or online learning platforms.

The future possibilities and benefits of these technologies to humanity are unimaginable. According to Goldman Sachs Research, breakthroughs in Generative Artificial Intelligence, could drive a 7% (or almost $7 trillion) increase in global GDP and lift productivity growth by 1.5 percentage points over a 10-year period.

There are however concerns that the use of these technologies will exacerbate the challenge currently faced by governments in regulating issues such as misinformation, data manipulation, cybersecurity, and identity theft.

It is feared that technologies such as Deepfakes, if not properly regulated, could be manipulated by warmongers especially in developing countries to cause chaos. It could also be used to perpetuate high-powered cyber fraud.

In the recent Nigerian elections, Deepfake technology was used by certain elements to manipulate the voices of some prominent individuals to gain political mileage. Another case in point was the reported incident in China, where AI-powered face-swapping technology was used by a fraudster to impersonate a friend of the victim during a video call and receive a transfer of 4.3 million yuan ($622,000).

Some pundits have posited that if the uses of these technologies are not properly regulated, they may signal the end of the human race. Of course, this may sound outrageous, but there is palpable fear that the unregulated usage of these technologies will cause devastating harm to humanity.

However, with the increasing fears of the potential negative impact of the unregulated use of these technologies, the world is looking up to governments and regulators to provide robust regulations to govern their development and use.

The emergence of these technologies has thrown governments and regulators all over the world into a frenzy of how best to regulate their various possibilities.

At the moment, it seems both governments and regulators are overwhelmed by the rapid pace of the development of the different variants of these technologies. Even in the developed world, there has not been any significant regulatory and policy direction on how to regulate these technologies. The regulatory authorities of most developed countries are still working on draft proposals to regulate AI and other emerging technologies.

In the United States, the National Telecommunications, and Information Administration (NTIA), a branch of the US Department of Commerce, recently put out a request for input on what policies should shape AI accountability ecosystem.

While in China, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) recently unveiled draft measures for managing generative AI services.

In Europe, the European Parliament on 11th May 2023 voted on a draft AI regulation, also known as the AI Act, which attempts to regulate AI systems by setting minimum requirements.

In 2019 the OECD AI Principles were approved by member countries. Despite the approval of the OECD AI Principles by member Countries, none of the member countries have domesticated the principles to provide a robust regulatory framework for the regulation of AI and other emerging technologies.

The OECD AI Principles are the first such principles signed by governments. They include concrete recommendations for public policy and strategy, and their general scope ensures they can be applied to AI developments around the world.

The slow pace of regulation of these technologies is a testament to the fact the traditional regulation-making process is no longer fit for purpose in the ever-evolving world of technology. There is, therefore, a need for a paradigm shift in the rule-making process to enable regulators to keep pace with the rapidly changing technological ecosystem.

The traditional rule-making process which has layers of bureaucracy and political manoeuvring must give way to a knowledge-based approach. The traditional legislative houses which are usually suffused with politicians and their bureaucratic support base do not have the required knowledge and skills to make laws and regulations to govern the different variants of the emerging technologies.

While the developed countries seem to be taking steps to provide frameworks to regulate the various tendencies of these emerging technologies, the developing countries are obviously waiting for regulatory and policy direction from the developed world.

Developing countries have typically relied on the developed world and multilateral institutions to provide policy and regulatory direction on most global issues. Usually, draft regulatory frameworks by organizations such as the EU, UN, and OECD are adopted by developing countries for implementation in their respective countries. However, the rapid pace at which these technologies are evolving, and their potentially catastrophic impact of unregulated use require developing countries to proactively provide robust regulations to govern the use of these technologies. They cannot afford to adopt the old sit-down-and-look approach or wait for draft frameworks that might not be suitable for their environments to adopt.

Apparently, due to the dearth of requisite skilled manpower and basic infrastructure developing countries are projected to be more impacted by the unregulated use of these emerging technologies.

It is therefore necessary for developing countries to train the required manpower and provide the necessary infrastructure to not only to maximize the benefits of these technologies but to also provide measures to counter their negative use. There should be a body of experts solely dedicated to studying the different variants of emerging technologies and providing regulations for their beneficial use.

Immediate constitutional reforms are needed to separate the traditional rule-making process which is characterized by politics and horse-trading from that of technological governance. Skill, knowledge, and infrastructure are needed to adequately regulate the rapid advancement of technology and the traditional rule making process cannot keep pace with these changes.

At the regional and continental level, agencies, such as ECOWAS and AU should assemble a body of experts to provide policy and regulatory direction to guide member countries as done by the OECD.

Emerging technologies hold a lot of benefits to humanity, and developing countries should not just be onlookers and suffer just the negative effect of the use of these technologies and not the enormous benefits. The abundant young and resourceful manpower within developing countries must be harnessed through the provision of basic infrastructures, training, and regulatory frameworks to tap into the benefits and counter the negative effects.

Omorogbe, is the company secretary/legal adviser of Linkage Assurance Plc.