Governments have a fundamental responsibility to regulate the use of A.I. to protect the public interest, according to UN Resident Coordinator, Joanna Kazana. She made the statement during the opening of the UN in Trinidad and Tobago's Big Data Forum 2023 on Tuesday, November 21.
The two-day Forum was the marquis event under the UN Joint SDG Fund project to modernise data and statistics in Trinidad and Tobago. This project, which began in 2022, is being undertaken by UN organizations, PAHO/WHO, ILO, ECLAC and UNEP, with the UN Resident Coordinator's Office chairing the steering committee.
2023 marked the first time the UN's Big Data Forum - now in its third year - had been held in person.
Outlining the tremendous transformational benefits to be gained from problem-solving applications of A.I., Ms. Kazana underscored the many positive uses of harnessing this cutting edge technology. But she cautioned about the "massive governance gap" that has rapidly grown between the pace of private-sector development of A.I. technology and the ability of governments to protect users.
"New technologies are lacking even basic guardrails," Ms. Kazana said. "It is harder to bring a soft toy than an A.I. chatbot to market today. Because such digital technologies are privately developed, governments are constantly lagging behind in regulating them in the public interest. As a result of decades of underinvestment in State capacities, public institutions in most countries are ill equipped to assess and respond to digital challenges. Very few can compete with private to harness talent and offer incentives to digitally skilled people to work in the public sector."
She noted that one imperative of robust digital governance is minimizing the inequity that can arise between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' with digital access and user skills.
The Big Data Forum 2023 featured 9 sessions of keynote addresses and panel discussions, an expo of suppliers and services in the realm of Big Data and A.I., and a youth tournament on prompt engineering - dubbed the Collegiate Battle Bots competition. The Forum created a space for local and regional experts to build on the global discourse happening in the Big Data and A.I. space, developing their unique Caribbean narrative on these emerging technologies.