Singapore updates AI use guidance in digital Davos push

Out-Law News | 24 Jan 2020 | 9:59 am | 2 min. read

Guidance designed to help businesses use artificial intelligence (AI) responsibly has been updated in Singapore.

The second edition of the model AI governance framework was published earlier this week to coincide with the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The first iteration of the guidance was published in January 2019.

Changes made in the second edition include clarifying the role humans have to play as supervisors of decision-making by AI applications, and the factors businesses should consider when determining the level of human involvement necessary in that process.

The new guidance has also highlighted how robustness, reproducibility and auditability are measures organisations can implement to build trust in the operation of AI, and it further explained that businesses only need to conduct an algorithm audit "if it is necessary to discover the actual operations of algorithms comprised in models, and only at the request of a regulator".

Singapore's Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), which helped to prepare the new guidelines, said: "The accountability-based framework helps chart the language and frame the discussions around harnessing AI in a responsible way."

Technology law expert Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "The need for some kind of AI framework is important to creating trust in this new technology and cannot be understated. We are seeing the first wave of organisations adopting elements of this AI framework as they attempt to apply AI in their businesses."

In an interview with Straits Times, Singapore's communications and information minister S. Iswaran made it clear that the government sees the Davos meeting as a chance to highlight the city state's digital economy credentials.

We are an early adopter of technology, we are actively thinking about the issues," Iswaran said.

"The reason we are here is really to share our experiences, but also to learn from others, and find possibilities to collaborate and partner - whether it is with the private sector or with governments, and essentially, like-minded partners," he said.

"We are a small, open economy. Connectivity, innovation and trade are our lifeblood," the minister said. "

Separately, Singapore's government confirmed on Tuesday that talks over a new digital economy partnership agreement (DEPA) with New Zealand and Chile have reached "substantial conclusion".

"In addition to establishing rules for digital trade, the DEPA fosters cooperation in emerging digital areas," Singapore's government said in a statement. "It promotes interoperability between different regimes by aligning standards and addressing new issues brought about by digitalisation. Some of these novel elements include e-invoicing, digital identities, fintech, artificial intelligence, data flows and data innovation, trade and investment opportunities for SMEs, and digital inclusivity."

The three countries collectively expressed a desire for the DEPA to be signed and enter into force "in the near future".

"DEPA is a quick start to multilateral efforts to define some of the rules and parameters for a modern economy," Tan said. "We envisage other countries such as Australia joining in this effort as multilateral organisations such as the World Trade Organisation work towards this aim."

Singapore's government has also signed another agreement aimed at supporting the shift away from paper-based trade arrangements.

The agreement, also signed by a number of major businesses and the International Chamber of Commerce, is designed to utilise the Singapore-developed 'TradeTrust' framework to facilitate the exchange of digital trade documentation. TradeTrust consists of "a set of governance and legal frameworks, standards and a future-ready digital infrastructure, to facilitate the interoperability of electronic trade documents exchanged between different digital ecosystems", according to the Singapore government.

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