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Is the Indian Government Set to Regulate Artificial Intelligence And Its Ethics?

This comes at a time when there is already a debate on online data privacy and data security.

Vishal Mathur | @vishalmathur85

Updated:February 20, 2019, 12:45 PM IST
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Is the Indian Government Set to Regulate Artificial Intelligence And Its Ethics?
This comes at a time when there is already a debate on online data privacy and data security.
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Artificial intelligence is everywhere. It is in your phone. It is in almost every app in your phone. It powers the software in your computer and tablet. These intelligent algorithms even recommend the next TV show or movies you should watch on Netflix. It is therefore not surprising that the Government of India is looking to regulate artificial intelligence (AI), with a clear set of guidelines for how the AI technology is developed and implemented. This has been confirmed by Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation in the Government of India.

“Ideas and #Technologies have a broader impact in today's society and it must be governed and guided by ethics for a better tomorrow, Prabhu said in a tweet, announcing the Narendra Modi government’s stance on the emerging artificial intelligence based technologies and the need for regulation. This comes at a time when there is already a debate on data privacy and data security in the online space, particularly with regards to how social networks such as Facebook and Twitter safeguard user data. This also follows the announcement by standing Finance Minister Piyush Goyal in the Budget 2019 announced earlier this month, that the government of India was considering a national centre for artificial intelligence, and will also be unveiling a national AI portal soon.

It is perhaps the increasing reliance on the use of machines, machine learning and the use of smart algorithms to power artificially intelligence systems, which makes it prudent for regulation. The fear that has always existed with AI and the algorithms that power it is how it comes to making a certain decision based on the data that is available to it at that point of time, and how to ensure that it makes the correct decision every time. This is where the question of the ethics of AI comes into the picture, which the government expects to tackle with some amount of regulation.

Then there is the whole question of who owns the data about the users, and how that data is used to further power AI based apps, services and platforms. As things stand, a larger chunk of the data that is collected by AI, and further used to improve AI, is still controlled by certain companies. The government wants to put in place some mechanisms and policies about how these algorithms are written and how the data is collected in the entire process is used, safeguarded and perhaps even further tracked.

India will be following the lead of countries such as Canada, Singapore, France, China and the UK, to name a few, to formulate and eventually implement policies and regulations that control the use of AI.

For instance, in the 2018–2019 budget, the government of Australia announced a four-year plan and set aside AU$29.9 million to support the development of AI in Australia. At the same time, they will create a Technology Roadmap, a Standards Framework, and a national AI Ethics Framework to support the responsible development of AI.

In July 2017, China had unveiled what is called ‘A Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan’, which sets a roadmap for as far as the year 2030 with regards to development of AI in China and also the regulations and ethics to promote development of AI.

In April 2018, the European Union outlined the Communication on Artificial Intelligence document which among other issues, outlines the need to have an ethical and legal framework is in place—and will prepare the draft guidelines which member countries would most likely adopt as is, or with certain localized changes.

It is not entirely clear at the moment as to when India’s first draft for the AI policy will be ready, or what all will fall within the purview of the guidelines and regulations.
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