Why is a National AI Strategy important for Egypt?


Access to Knowledge

2021-05-05 12:31:37 2120 0

Drafted by A2K4D, this paper represents the opinions of participants of the Inclusive Internet Governance Initiative Digital technologies have been presented as powerful tools to be harnessed for inclusive development. At the same time, they can aggravate the digital divide, amplify global knowledge inequalities, and thus widen the developmental gap. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the most recent, promising, and complex technology in this context.[1] It has great potential to spur economic development and provide technological solutions to many current challenges in health, agriculture, and other sectors; but the risks are equally large.[2] Given the sophistication of AI technologies, this potential for positive and negative consequences is amplified: AI has the potential to not only exacerbate global and regional developmental gaps, but also inequality within societies. To address this situation, many countries have developed national strategies that set national priorities and goals for AI. There are currently more than 20 countries that have released strategy documents about Artificial Intelligence. The list includes Canada, China, France, the European Union, India, Kenya, and the United Arab Emirates. International organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum issue reports and recommendations for how to deal with the wide-reaching ramifications of this new technology. It is crucial for every country to keep up with the rapid developments around Artificial Intelligence. The strategies are significant because they show how governments plan to tackle the challenges presented by AI and how they hope to encourage local companies to develop solutions that will boost GDP and offer a host of societal benefits. At the same time, they tackle questions about security, privacy, accountability, bias, transparency, and ethics. Given AI’s potential for disruptive social and environmental effects, the development of sophisticated national and international governance structures capable of responding to these challenges will become increasingly critical. However, not all countries are following the same path. Countries are taking vastly different approaches, since each strategy reflects a countries’ overall economic, social, and political priorities and context. For example, the United States has not developed a single coordinated national AI strategy, but the country’s AI policy is laid out in three separate reports. Russia has allowed the private sector to take leadership in developing standards and practices around AI policies. Some countries, such as China and the European Union, developed a national strategy to maintain their leading position in developing AI technology. Other countries, such as Kenya or Tunisia, focus on harnessing this new technology for inclusive development and growth. Other strategies help ensure AI accountability and manage bias in AI systems, and many detail steps to deal with the consequences of human job loss due to increased automation. The issues that surround AI vary significantly depending on the local context. In such diverse environments, the scenarios for AI intervention are multiple but endlessly distinct. AI must respond to local needs and address context specific challenges. Thus, Egypt stands to gain from developing a national AI strategy that responds to the country’s needs and priorities. A strongly communicated national strategy is important for the country both domestically and globally; it can help to anticipate, mitigate, andprevent negative consequences of AI implementation. This requires a sustained and coordinated effort between government agencies and the private sector as well as between governments on an international level, a goal easier achieved with the help of a national strategy outlining goals and benchmarks. Developing an AI strategy is an opportunity for Egypt to set its own priorities for AI use. It means asking what AI can do for Egypt, instead of the other way around. Not having this kind of coordinated leadership from the top down risks having other countries or companies determine what type of technology will be implemented in the country. AI policy is about maximizing benefits while minimizing risks and harms. The following questions can guide the development of a national strategy for AI in Egypt: Does Egypt seek to develop local technologies and compete in the global AI market, or does the country seek to harness existing technology for its own benefit? What are the required pre-requisites to develop AI in Egypt and where does the country currently stand? How can Egypt encourage the development economy-boosting and job-creating AI technologies? How can we use AI to boast the labor sector and how do we mitigate the potentially harmful impact of AI? What impact will AI have on the workforce and how can Egypt prepare for it? How can Egypt ensure that AI, sensitive to the local context and with minimal bias, will be implemented? Which companies and start-ups are currently using AI in Egypt? What kind of umbrella will help them develop AI that is useful for the Egyptian context? Will Egypt’s national AI strategy be public or private sector driven? What local problems should, or could AI help solve? Which applications of AI are most needed in Egypt? Which sectors of the economy stand to gain from AI applications, for instance agriculture and irrigation? How can Egypt build on existing local capacity and make use of the already prevalent research on AI? How can the strategy help to build local capacities in AI instead of adopting outside capacities? Who are the main stakeholders that need to be included in preparing a strategy for Egypt? How can Egypt learn from other countries’ strategies? [1] Rizk, Nagla. (Forthcoming). “Artificial Intelligence and Inequality in the Middle East: The Political Economy of Inclusion” Oxford Handbook of Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, M Dubber ed., Oxford University Press. [2] Rizk, “Artificial Intelligence and Inequality in the Middle East,” (forthcoming), 2.