Experts from Central Asia debate the development of artificial intelligence in the region

On 15 February 2021, UNESCO Office in Almaty invited experts from civil society, private sector and governments from Central Asia and the Russian Federation to facilitate the dialogue on the multiple implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in line with UNESCO’s Internet Universality ROAM Principles (Rights, Openness, Access and Multi-stakeholder participation), following the launch of the Steering AI and Advanced ICTs for Knowledge Societies: A ROAM Perspective report in Russian.

 

The online seminar’s discussion focused on how AI and advanced ICTs will impact Human Rights, Openness and Access, and how a Multi-stakeholder approach underpins work to address both the challenges and opportunities.

Debating the openness of AI development, participants focused on how to foster clarity and transparency of algorithms and technologies, since the “blackboxes” – the lack of transparency – in automized decision-making processes pose major challenges occurring alongside the development of AI. Sergei Bolshakov, representing Microsoft Russia, suggested that while open data had previously been viewed as a tool for increasing social welfare, the focus has since shifted to the protection of information and data privacy.

Viktor Monakhov, representative of the Moscow Higher School of Economics and associate member of the UNESCO Chair on Copyright and other Intellectual Property rights, stressed that all civil society and users need to be consulted and engaged by governments in building inclusive regulatory frameworks of AI.

Regarding the need for legislation and regulation both at national and international level, Ruslan Daiyrbekov, founder of the non-governmental organization Eurasian Digital Foundation, emphasized the necessity of strict data anonymization, for example, the need for consent when personal data is processed.

Because data is often gender-biased, gender inequality is reflected in the disproportional representation of women in the workforce, especially in IT-related fields. Accordingly, various stakeholders seek to tackle gender stereotypes to attract girls and broaden the understanding of IT as something which is not limited to the profession of programmers.

Another issue emerges with the phenomenon of “deepfake videos”, often in the context of pornography. Mr Daiyrbekov further stressed the imperfect structure of digital technologies: as flaws and mistakes occur in information processing, the experience shows that people of color and women are repeatedly affected by discrimination. Overall, the participants agreed on the feasibility of harmonizing human rights with the use of open data technology.

As AI and other new technologies have been evolving within the ecosystem of the Internet, UNESCO believes that Internet Universality ROAM principles of Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder participation, endorsed and agreed by UNESCO Member States in 2015, can serve as a well-grounded and holistic framework for UNESCO and stakeholders to help shape the design, application and governance of AI. UNESCO thus recommended that States implement Internet Universality Indicators to measure human Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multi-stakeholder participation and to thereby map and improve the ecosystem in which AI is developed, applied and governed.

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