India Sets Global Narrative for Responsible AI, Digital Public Infra at G20
In December 2022, after India took the mantle of the G20 Presidency, I articulated in an opinion piece on how the forum can be a pivot to tech diplomacy. India can leverage the G20 forum to rally around leaders and build a consensus on international AI governance and digital public infrastructure (DPI).
As a tech evangelist, I am glad to see the vision gaining acceptance at the recently concluded G20 summit in Delhi. It is enthusing to note Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi mooting a framework for responsible, human-centric AI governance to make sure that all countries get the benefits of AI in areas like socio-economic development, global workforce, and R&D. This is a crucial step to ensure that the benefits of AI are shared equitably across all countries and that proper security measures are in place to protect citizens from potential misuse. It also encourages countries to collaborate in developing AI technologies, which could create more jobs and foster economic growth.
The G20 is a strategic political and economic bloc, representing two-thirds of the global population of around eight billion. By converging global titans, India has shown how it can anchor the next Tech-ade of multilateral transition. With India in the driver’s seat, the G20 is becoming an even more powerful force for global transition, creating a brighter future for all.
In 2019, India adopted the ‘Principles on AI’ to foster responsible AI governance. However, in today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, there is a pressing need to go further. Given the cross-border nature of AI development and deployment, AI governance requires international cooperation and coordination. But achieving consensus and establishing harmonized global standards can be challenging due to differing regulatory approaches, cultural contexts, and national priorities. Overcoming these challenges and fostering international collaboration is essential to address issues such as data localization, intellectual property rights (IPR), and ethical guidelines while ensuring responsible and beneficial AI deployment worldwide.
With the G20 Declaration welcoming the ‘G20 Framework for Systems of DPI,’ international cooperation and discussions on global governance for AI have gained prominence. The recognition emphasizes the importance of building a resilient and trustable digital infrastructure while respecting human rights, privacy, and IPR.
By implementing initiatives like the India Stack, the Indian G20 Presidency has demonstrated its commitment to creating digital infrastructure and driving underlying technology adoption. By taking this proactive approach, India positions itself as a digital governance leader. It distinguishes itself from other nations, including China, which essentially develops physical infrastructure. To substantiate, India has garnered a roaring success in DPI, with its UPI transactions reaching a record 10.58 billion in August 2023 and accounting for 75 percent of all digital payments in the country.
The G20 Declaration recognizes the importance of DPI and emphasizes the need for international cooperation on AI governance. As a voluntary framework for the development, deployment, and governance of DPIs, the G20 Framework has been warmly received. It enables safe, secure, resilient, and trust-building in the digital economy while supporting ecosystems and responsible AI use.
The DPI framework promotes interoperable solutions, transparent governance, and privacy-enhancing technologies. Despite its non-binding nature, it sets the stage for countries to work together to develop a safe, secure, trustworthy, and inclusive digital infrastructure. Also, the G20 leaders have committed to utilizing digital tools and technologies to ensure financial inclusion, support agri-tech start-ups and MSMEs, and protect and promote cultural heritage.
With its commitment to establishing a Global Digital Public Infrastructure Repository (GDPIR), India has further demonstrated its commitment to sharing knowledge and experiences with other countries. DPI can drive societal-level change at scale, aligning with the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a combination of technology, transparent governance, and public-private innovation.
India has actively facilitated global partnerships for mitigating risks and ensuring trust in technology in the digital economy. A key component of preparing the workforce for digital transformation is capacity building, particularly in the area of digital skills. India’s focus on digital upskilling and reskilling aligns with the G20 toolkit for building a future-ready workforce.
AI governance and DPI are intertwined concepts that require serious attention from G20 countries. Governments can enable responsible AI development by using transparency and explainability, strengthening data protection and privacy regulations, and creating robust DPI frameworks. The future of AI governance will also depend on collaborative approaches and exploring emerging technologies. AI governance and DPI are like two sides of the same coin; one side requires understanding and regulation of the former. In contrast, the other involves investment in the latter. With both concepts working together, the full potential of AI will be realized.