An AI opportunity agenda for ASEAN

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AI has the potential to fundamentally change the ways we live, work and learn. As highlighted in our global AI Opportunity Agenda, we’re currently at an inflection point where the choices made by governments, industry leaders and civil society will determine how AI is used to benefit as many people as possible.

With a young and tech-optimistic population, a dynamic digital landscape and a burgeoning tech ecosystem, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is well-positioned to harness AI to radically transform its future. From solving public health problems to strengthening disaster resilience, to raising economic competitiveness, there are countless opportunities for AI to speed progress towards these goals.

As ASEAN Digital Ministers and officials meet in Singapore this week to discuss AI among other topics, we’re launching an AI Opportunity Agenda for ASEAN — a whitepaper outlining policy recommendations to ASEAN member states (AMS) with suggestions on how to make the most of AI.

We offer three key recommendations on how AMS — individually and at the ASEAN level — can harness AI responsibly and to its fullest potential.

Invest in innovation infrastructure

AMS can support scientific competitiveness by investing in long-term research and development and testing new approaches to build out AI infrastructure. Promoting collaboration for creating national AI strategy is key to building the public’s trust with AI.

Build an AI-ready workforce

To thrive in the AI era, it’s critical for workers to build new skills. That requires adapting skilling programs across sectors, developing national AI training and support programs and establishing new public-private partnerships to scale these programs and make them accessible to all workers. AMS should develop a comprehensive ASEAN AI skilling roadmap with training and support programs for different constituencies — including youth, workers, and micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

Promote inclusive adoption and accessibility

AMS should identify priority sectors with the highest need or the lowest uptake of AI tools (or both). Working closely with these sectors on new pilot initiatives to model effective AI deployment will help make sure that these programs are as inclusive as possible. AMS should adopt and promote the use of common technical standards, which will also help reduce the compliance burden for small and medium-sized businesses across ASEAN.

Google’s contribution

We are pleased to work with governments and others to help ASEAN communities and businesses make the most of the AI opportunity. The latest e-Conomy SEA by Google, Temasek and Bain shows that Southeast Asia’s digital economy hit US$100 billion in revenue in 2022, but there is work to be done to ensure everyone can access the benefits of technology.

We’ll continue to support efforts around infrastructure, skilling and accessibility through various initiatives. Google’s investments in network infrastructure have had a positive impact, with AnalysisMason estimating these investments led to USD 640 billion in aggregate GDP for Asia-Pacific from 2010 to 2021. On skilling, we partnered with the government in Singapore to launch AI Trailblazers, which aimed to address 100 generative AI use cases within 100 days, by providing AI training and infrastructure. Through Google’s Digital Futures Project, a Google.org fund which provides grants to think tanks and academic institutions, we support work to understand both the opportunities and challenges of AI. Locally, this fund is supporting AI Singapore to organize cross-sector industry roundtables to examine challenges and applications of responsible AI deployment in the region. We’ve also launched an AI Policy and Skilling Lab for Southeast Asia, a series of Google-led workshops and resources which aim to help policymakers on AI and its use cases.

We look forward to partnering with ASEAN to work towards an AI-driven future for everyone.

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