Stakeholders call for new governing policy on AIAs the use of AI technologies proliferates globally, countries including Nepal are recognising a pressing necessity for regulating AI.
Various stakeholders have stressed the need for a new governing policy on Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it looks set to dominate the new technological landscape globally.
Speaking at an event on Monday, Krishna Bahadur Raut, secretary at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, said that Asian countries are at the forefront of digital governance, which opens up valuable opportunities for nations like Nepal.
Digital governance is a framework for establishing accountability, roles, and decision-making authority for an organisation’s digital presence.
Raut said that AI could influence the upcoming elections and pose risks of job displacement, which is especially concerning given Nepal is a remittance-based economy. “This underscores the need for proactive measures to govern AI,” Raut said during the event organised by UNESCO in collaboration with the Department of Languages and Mass Communication, Kathmandu University, and Digital Rights Nepal.
Currently, the Digital Nepal Framework, a government proposal for raising digital literacy and supporting the advancement of information and communications technology, is undergoing a review process, emphasising the significance of discussions that foster a shared understanding, Raut said. “These dialogues are crucial for the formulation of coherent policies, legal frameworks, and effective mechanisms that regulate AI and align with the broader goals of national development,” he added. “The stakeholders, including the government, civil society, academia, media, and the tech industry have explored avenues for optimising the opportunities that AI offers while mitigating potential risks and ensuring AI contributes to a more inclusive, sustainable, and peaceful world.”
The event, which attendees called one of the first comprehensive dialogues on the governance of AI in Nepal, provided an avenue for experts and participants to hold open discussions on various aspects of AI. They emphasised the importance of striking a balance between innovation, ethical standards, and safeguarding the rights and freedoms of citizens.
Michael Croft, the UNESCO Representative to Nepal, said the UN specialised agency is concerned about the social impacts and implications of technology. “This commitment is evident in the formulation of global social media guidelines, meticulously drafted through extensive consultations with member states,” Croft said.
“These guidelines aspire to safeguard the essence of everyone's freedom of expression, access to information, and the richness of diverse cultural content. In the context of our discussions on AI governance, UNESCO’s vision aligns with our collective commitment to ensuring these principles flourish alongside the advancement of AI.”
The objective of the dialogue is to sensitise key stakeholders and policymakers about the implications of AI technologies on digital rights, privacy, and society, and to develop a set of preliminary recommendations for the governance and regulation of AI in Nepal, organisers said.
Speaking at the event, Ekku Maya Pun, acting dean at Kathmandu University School of Arts, said that recognising the impact of AI technologies on society, the institution has inaugurated both Bachelor’s and Masters’ programmes in AI. “The primary objective of these courses is to cultivate graduates with a keen interest in conducting research and advancing their careers in AI,” Pun said, acknowledging UNESCO’s initiation made to shape the digital landscape where technological advancements are balanced with human rights.
As the use of AI technologies proliferates globally, countries are recognising a pressing necessity for regulating AI. This regulation is envisioned not only to expedite human development and innovation but also to safeguard fundamental principles such as human rights, peace, security, and the freedom of expression and information, organisers said.
Tanka Aryal, chairperson of Digital Rights Nepal, said the regulation of AI is a critical issue that demands a comprehensive and inclusive discussion involving diverse stakeholders in Nepal. “This collaborative effort is instrumental in contributing to the establishment of a comprehensive AI governance framework that evolves alongside the development of AI technologies,” he said.
A panel featuring under-secretaries representing government ministries and constitutional commissions engaged in a comprehensive discussion on the current state of AI governance and legal frameworks in Nepal. Additionally, another panel composed of experts representing tech industries, government bodies and international organisations discussed the need for a balance between innovation, ethics, and rights in the context of AI regulation in Nepal.