India Emerges as a Leader in Shaping Global AI Governance
Last week, the US took a significant step towards establishing more robust standards for artificial intelligence (AI) safety and security. President Joe Biden’s Executive Order signaled a commitment to collaborate internationally on AI governance, setting the stage for a new course in the country’s approach to this rapidly evolving technology. Following closely behind, India joined 27 other nations in adopting the Bletchley Declaration, a commitment made at the recent UK-led AI Safety Summit. This declaration acknowledges the need for a global alliance to address AI-related risks, including disinformation.
However, while these proposals demonstrate a growing recognition of the importance of international cooperation on AI governance, the exact nature of this collaboration remains undefined. This lack of clarity sets the stage for India’s critical role as the chair of the upcoming Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) Summit in December. The GPAI, formed in 2020 by the G7 nations and India, aims to bring together a diverse range of stakeholders, including academia, industry, and civil society, to shape the global governance of AI.
To understand how India can shape the future of AI governance, we can draw lessons from the evolution of internet governance. The governance of the internet is divided into two layers: the services layer regulated by states and the infrastructure layer that requires global management due to its interconnectivity. The governance of the infrastructure layer has been dominated by a multi-stakeholder model since the 1990s. Organizations like ICANN, IETF, and W3C, which are not government bodies, oversee the technical backbone of the internet.
However, this multi-stakeholder model has faced challenges, leading to global contestation. For example, ICANN, a private entity under California’s jurisdiction, administers the Domain Name System (DNS), a critical component of the internet. This centralized control by a business based in the US has raised concerns from countries like China and Russia, leading them to develop alternative closed systems. These nations have actively campaigned for a shift from a multi-stakeholder approach to multilateral organizations, with the United Nations playing a more significant role in internet governance.
India, on the other hand, has embraced the multi-stakeholder model within the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) discussions. The country is fortunate to possess a wealth of non-governmental expertise that has contributed significantly to digital policy and initiated legal reforms on issues such as net neutrality and the right to informational privacy. India’s commitment to multi-stakeholderism aligns with its values and interests, making it a strong advocate for inclusive AI governance.
The governance of AI presents unique challenges, as the trajectory of this transformative technology is still largely unpredictable. The societal impact of AI will have far-reaching consequences, affecting the future of work, the climate crisis, human development, and economic growth. Given that developers cannot fully predict the societal response to AI applications, it is crucial to involve multiple stakeholders in AI governance.
As India prepares to lead the GPAI, the country has an opportunity to embed a truly democratic multi-stakeholder ethos in AI governance. With no established technical bodies to contend with, and all GPAI members sharing a common vision, India is poised to define the future of AI governance. As home to nearly one-fifth of global internet users, India’s perspective and experience with AI can contribute significantly to shaping global standards for this technology.
In conclusion, India’s active role in shaping global AI governance is driven by its commitment to a multi-stakeholder approach. Its contribution to the governance of the internet, combined with its significant presence in the digital sphere, positions India as a key player in this evolving field. By leveraging its expertise and championing inclusivity, India has the potential to shape the future of AI governance, ensuring that this powerful technology benefits society as a whole.