AI solutions for Asian consumers


As countries around the world rush to create regulations on artificial intelligence (AI) in light of a surge in real-life applications, Indonesia aims for its own “local” approach.

However, experts have raised questions about the aspiration, considering the country’s predominant position as an AI consumer rather than a trailblazer in the industry.

Three years after introducing the National AI Strategy 2020-2045, the government has decided to issue an open letter to businesspeople as an initial step toward regulating AI tech.

A four-page draft of the letter shared by officials proposes ethical guidelines to shape company-internal policies for AI programming, analysis and consulting.“The letter serves as an ethical guide that is not legally binding but rather governs at a normative level,” Deputy Communications and Information Minister Nezar Patria told the media in a press conference after an AI focus group discussion (FGD).

The letter is to be finalised and released later this month.

Keeping things flexible

Despite its non-binding character, the letter was not an attempt to come up with the feeblest possible measure, Nezar said.

Rather, he noted, given the rapid technological progress, the government had to remain open to any possible developments, which included being prepared to establish legally-binding regulations as needed.

Nezar pointed out that Indonesia’s strategy diverged from that of the United States, the European Union and China, which were adept in AI technology, and would instead prioritise the local context in line with the country’s ideology.

“We can comply with global governance values while looking at our local values such as cooperative inclusivity, humanity, safety, democracy, transparency, credibility and accountability,” he elaborated. Indonesia has teamed up with AI Singapore to develop an open-source large language model (LLM) designed specifically for the Indonesian language and culture.

AI must understand Indonesia

In a panel discussion following the partnership signing ceremony in Jakarta, William Tjhi, head of applied research for foundation models at AI Singapore, highlighted the importance of this collaboration in developing AI solutions that resonated with South-East Asia’s diversity and prioritised cultural sensitivity as well as diverse use cases.

“We aim to align values on security and cultural sensitivity. Understanding what’s sensitive in another country requires local expertise, which is why having Indonesian partners is crucial,” William said.

Experts have commended the ethical guidance as an initial step toward regulating AI but also noted the need for a deeper understanding on that part of the government about the ecosystem and requirements for cohesive governance involving the public.

“There’s a good point in the letter, indicating that AI technology shouldn’t replace all existing manpower through automation,” Communication and Information System Security Research Center (CISSReC) chairman Pratama Persadha said.

On the other hand, as a guideline, it should address targets for system providers and users, especially for developers utilising external models or application programming interfaces (APIs), he said. Additionally, the guideline should highlight the benefits of AI, particularly for public interests.

“The guidance shouldn’t only be aimed at businesses but also include points for the general public, considering their increasing familiarity with this technology,” emphasised Pratama.

Rules needed, but which ones?

Indonesia Cyber Security Forum (ICSF) chairman Ardi Sutedja said that the government still had “a lot to explore” before it could release ethical guidelines on AI, as the country’s tech industry was dominated by consumers rather than developers.

“Regulations are important, but the question is, what kind of regulation do we actually need?” Ardi said, noting that the letter was a guideline rather than a directive.

Dirgantara Adisutjipto Institute of Technology (ITDA) rector and AI expert Arwin Datumaya Wahyudi Sumari echoed a similar sentiment.

“We’re a nation of consumers, and that’s also the perception the world has of us.

“It’s time to shift our mindset from being consumers to becoming producers,” Arwin said on Wednesday. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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