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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

12 October 2023

ESCAP ES

Excellency, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan,

Excellency, Mr. Bagdat Mussin, Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of Kazakhstan,

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I have the honour to address you today on the compelling theme of this year’s Digital Bridge Forum, “AI and Human: The Right Balance.”

Astounding advances in technology and AI have brought new hope that we will benefit in countless ways, from cures for untreatable diseases and disabilities to discovering solutions to our climate and ecological crisis, to mention but a few. 

However, non-human intelligence, which has higher capabilities than most of us, has revealed deep challenges. Increasingly, we are haunted by what this means for our human existence.

As AI shows quantum abilities to extract information and process and generate language through words, sounds or images, it is rapidly transforming the way we think, behave and operate.

As our values and life patterns reshape, our societies are becoming ever more complex – more interconnected but also more fragmented and polarized. 

For the immediate future, a key concern is that digital divides are widening and deepening as digital dividends become more concentrated in a handful of big influential platforms.

Let me highlight a few points emerging from our work related to policy analysis and intergovernmental consensus-building processes.

According to the first edition of the Asia-Pacific Digital Transformation Report 2022, the region remains the most digitally divided region in the world, with small island developing States and many landlocked least developed countries the most disconnected. 

At the same time, digitally advanced economies are actively investing in AI to accelerate digital governance, connectivity and transformation.

Our discourse on finding the balance, as this Forum seeks to do, must ensure that AI and AI-enabled services become a driver in building an inclusive digital society and economy based on fundamental human-centred values and rights.

In moving forward, I wish to highlight three actions.

First, on the supply side, we must redouble our investments in digital connectivity infrastructure as a foundation for human-centred AI development. This includes next-generation integrated clouding infrastructures, quantum internet connection, digital data infrastructures and spatial satellite connectivity.

On the demand side, we need to invest in strengthening human capacity. Investments in not only digital literacy and skills but also responsible digital culture with human dignity at its core will require the development of transformational digital curricula in education systems across the region.

Finally, enabling policy environments can benefit from strengthened cooperation between governments, the business sector, academia and other stakeholders. Our member-driven “Action Plan of the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway Initiative” is one such mechanism. 

I conclude my statement by expressing my deep appreciation to the Government of Kazakhstan for hosting the next Asia-Pacific Digital Ministerial Conference in 2024 in Astana.

I express the hope that discussions at the 2023 Forum will serve as an important milestone for preparing for that Ministerial Conference.

We look forward to working in close collaboration with the Government of Kazakhstan and all stakeholders for a Ministerial Conference that is path-breaking.

Let’s work together on creating our preferred open, safe and secure digital future with human rights and human dignity at its core.

Thank you very much.

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