Despite being at a nascent stage of development, AI is regarded as one of the most thriving industries of the 21st century. Throughout the world, states are exploring AI applications in societal spheres, military advancements, and economic innovation. The Global Artificial Intelligence Market Report estimated $66.8 billion of funding in the AI sector for the year 2022. Given the growing significance of the AI industry, the leading states of the world, America and China, have developed a technological war over the domination of the AI sector. These states are expected to get the most out of AI advances particularly in the economic and military domain.
The exaggerations at the international level due to continuous innovations in the AI sector also urged Pakistan to develop its first National Centre for Artificial Intelligence in 2018. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies developed the first draft of the National Artificial Intelligence Policy (NAIP 2023).
The draft aims to undertake efficient and sustained developments in the AI sector at the national level. The drivers discussed in the draft of NAIP aim at building AI awareness and readiness by creating a progressive environment. This will enable a thriving AI market through the transformation & evolution of the contemporary technological ecosystem.
Likewise, the draft also included multiple targets such as upskilling of human capital through higher education scholarships by establishing the National AI Fund. Along with imparting basic AI skills at the undergraduate level, the policy draft also aims to formulate Data Science and AI under STEM education. The other objectives entail developing the Center of Excellence in AI, and utilization of AI models through automation for data controlling and processing for academic and commercial purposes. Internationally partnerships with bilateral and multilateral AI programs will be initiated to adopt the best practices in the international market.
However, the government needs to cater to the challenges in developing targets under the policy draft because Pakistan is a resource-starved nation that is currently hit hard by economic instability. Moreover, the ranking of states on the global AI index reflects that economically stable countries spend more on advancements and developing states like Pakistan need cooperation with technologically sophisticated states. Moreover, the funds allocated for the promotion of AI was 723 billion under the 2022 PSDP.
In addition, most of the objectives are aimed to be completed by 2027 disregarding the fact that policy formulation on AI is still in its initial stage. There is a need to inculcate long-term objectives in NAIP keeping in view the national resources and strength. The better policy would be dividing them into phases to make their implementation more effective. Besides, the ecosystem reflects complementarity with the targets mentioned in the policy draft.
The budget for FY 2023-2024 allocated 190m to science and tech innovation particularly ICT and AI-based agricultural developments and 60m for establishing National Spatial Data infrastructure for Pakistan to increase AI developments.
No budget was allocated for upskilling people in the human security domain, which can prove to be a viable factor for enhancing soft power in the AI industry. Moreover, the policy draft generally talks about the ethical use of AI to promote socio-economic development. It has been unable to address how AI technologies and software can be used in an unethical dimension. Given that innovation in the field is faster than the regulations that are formed after critical evaluation of the pros and cons of the AI technologies and limits of intelligentization that are currently discussed by the world. The policy draft needs to create constructive regulations to address the unethical utilization of AI before taking the fast-paced evolution. In this regard, Pakistan conducted the first International Conference on Islamic Ethics and AI in 2021 to encourage the ethical use of AI based on educational, moral, and ethical subsystems. But the discussions on the societal impacts of AI in NAIP were taken in a generalized manner regardless of two years to integrate the ethical and moral codes into practical steps. Furthermore, the inclusion of AI in STEM education is an equally difficult aspect given the high costs for public institutions to purchase and train AI machines. There is a need to carve out affordable versions of AI technology along with reserving a special fund to inculcate AI in STEM education.
In essence, the challenges of highly skilled professionals, competitive research institutions to produce quality data, and insufficient financial aid for AI startups necessitate consideration. Given the initial condition of digital infrastructure coupled with the need to develop an AI ethics committee to evaluate the ethical implications of AI innovations. Correspondingly, the government needs to set aside additional funds for fostering AI startups. Pakistan can also learn from international partners like China, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. The good news is that it’s the first draft and changes can be inculcated way before the creation of the National AI Policy for implementation purposes.
The author is a passionate individual with a deep interest in strategic issues, cyber security, and AI. With a background in International Relations, she has developed a great deal of interest in analyzing global affairs and understanding the intersection of technology, global governance, geopolitics, and diplomacy.