A Framework for Developing a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy
World Economic Forum
Over the past decade, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as the software engine that drives the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a technological force affecting all disciplines, economies and industries. The exponential growth in computing infrastructure combined with the dramatic reduction in the cost of obtaining, processing, storing and transmitting data has revolutionized the way software is developed, and automation is carried out. Put simply, we have moved from machine programming to machine learning. This transformation has created great opportunities but poses serious risks. Various stakeholders, including governments, corporations, academics and civil society organizations have been making efforts to exploit the benefits it provides and to prepare for the risks it poses. Because government is responsible for protecting citizens from various harms and providing for collective goods and services, it has a unique duty to ensure that the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution creates benefits for the many, rather than the few.
To this end, various governments have embarked on the path to formulate and/or implement a national strategy for AI, starting with Canada in 2017. Such efforts are usually supported by multimillion-dollar – and, in a few cases, billion-dollar-plus – investments by national governments. Many more should follow given the appropriate guidance. This white paper is a modest effort to guide governments in their development of a national strategy for AI. As a rapidly developing technology, AI will have an impact on how enterprises produce, how consumers consume and how governments deliver services to citizens. AI also raises unprecedented challenges for governments in relation to algorithmic accountability, data protection, explainability of decision-making by machine-learning models and potential job displacements. These challenges require a new approach to understanding how AI and related technology developments can be used to achieve national goals and how their associated risks can be minimized. As AI will be used in all sectors of society and as it directly affects all citizens and all of the services provided by governments, it behoves governments to think carefully about how they create AI economies within their countries and how they can employ AI to solve problems as diverse as sustainability of ecosystems to healthcare. Each country will need AI for different things; for example, countries with ageing populations may not be so worried about jobs lost due to AI automation, whereas countries with youthful populations need to think of ways in which those young people can participate in the AI economy. Either way, this white paper provides a framework for national governments to follow while formulating a strategy of national preparedness and planning to draw benefits from AI developments.
The framework is the result of a holistic study of the various strategies and national plans prepared by various countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, France, Singapore, Germany and the UAE. Additionally, the World Economic Forum team interviewed government employees responsible for developing their national AI strategies in order to gain a detailed understanding of the design process they followed. The authors analysed these strategies and designed processes to distil their best elements.
The framework aims to guide governments that are yet to develop a national strategy for AI or which are in the process of developing such a strategy. The framework will help the teams responsible for developing the national strategy to ask the right questions, follow the best practices, identify and involve the right stakeholders in the process and create the right set of outcome indicators. Essentially, the framework provides a way to create a “minimum viable” AI strategy for a nation.
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