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The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) has opened up new opportunities and possibilities for progress, which has revolutionized several industries globally. Consequently, these opportunities have come with a lot of responsibilities, especially regarding its ethical deployment.

Southeast Asia, known for its diverse culture, is also an emerging hub for AI adoption. To successfully implement AI use cases, strong governance should be implemented to safeguard against potential threats and utilize the potential of AI.

Regional Policies in AI

A recent International Data Corporation report revealed that several companies in the Asia Pacific, referred to as the A1000, will allocate more than 50% of their primary IT spending to AI projects by 2025, stimulating an increase in both product and process innovations.

According to the World Bank, recent milestones, such as Southeast Asia's attainment of USD 200 billion in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) in 2022, underscores the rapid growth and potential of the digital economy in the region.

The use of AI in product development and operational procedures has garnered significant impacts and results. In recent years, AI has emerged as a driving force for innovation, offering businesses new opportunities to tailor products and services to address the evolving demands and preferences of customers. According to reports, the Asia Pacific region is at the forefront of adopting generative AI (GenAI), with an impressive 70% of organizations actively investigating its potential use cases.

However, the progress in deploying AI comes with substantial obligations and responsibilities, including ensuring the security and adherence to regulations of this technology.

In February, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) introduced its governance model, known as the ASEAN Guide to AI Governance and Ethics, in response to the various potential problems presented by AI.

The implementation of this framework signifies a crucial advancement in promoting responsible AI development throughout the region, demonstrating ASEAN's dedication to leveraging the advantages of AI, while minimizing its potential dangers.

The ASEAN Guide outlines seven fundamental principles—transparency and explain-ability, fairness and equity, security and safety, human-centricity, privacy and data-governance, accountability and integrity, and robustness and reliability—which will serve as the foundation for the creation, advancement, and implementation of AI systems in Southeast Asia.

Promoting Accountability in Deploying AI

Effective regulatory frameworks are essential in tackling the ethical considerations that arise from using AI. Active participation from civil society, policymakers, and industry stakeholders is critical for the development of adaptable regulatory frameworks that fall in sync with technological progress.

In order for policies to work, the public has to be actively involved in facilitating AI governance and promoting inclusiveness. Government bodies should cultivate avenues for public discourse that actively seek the opinions and contributions of marginalized communities, civil society organizations, and their citizens. The participation of stakeholders in decision-making processes improves the legitimacy, responsiveness, and accountability of AI governance frameworks.

ASEAN aims to cultivate an environment conducive to innovation while also safeguarding the welfare and interests of its population by prioritizing the principles outlined in its framework.

Moreover, the framework presents a comprehensive strategy that incorporates recommendations at both the national and regional levels. At the national level, there is a strong focus on cultivating AI expertise, enhancing the skills of workforces, and allocating resources towards research and development (R&D). Meanwhile, the creation of a working group at the regional level intends to assist the implementation of recommendations and the development of use cases, with the goal of encouraging collaborative efforts among member nations.

The effectiveness of the ASEAN guide will be evaluated based on its regional implementation. This will also serve as a common reference point for Southeast Asian countries that are developing their own regulations.

The growing digital economy of the ASEAN highlights the significance of AI as a driving force for both economic growth and digital transformation. The potential impact of AI on Southeast Asia's GDP by 2030 will profoundly shape the region's future.

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