Global Steps to Build Trust: ASEAN’s New Guide to AI Governance and Ethics

As AI increasingly impacts the global economy, it is vital to understand the potential risks, ethics, and regulatory approaches that ensure AI technologies are responsible, ethical, and effective. Learn why the ASEAN AI Guide represents a crucial first step for the Southeast Asia region.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a transformational role throughout the economy and worldwide, and Southeast Asia is no exception.  At Workday, we believe in the power of AI to unlock human potential, empower decision-makers with better insights, and drive efficiency. At the same time, while it is still early days for AI adoption in the workplace, our global study “Closing the AI Trust Gap”  put a finger on the pulse of what we’ve known for some time: trust will be key to realising AI’s full potential.  

Beyond taking our own steps to ensure our AI tools are developed in a trustworthy and responsible manner, Workday believes AI technologies demand a mature policy approach.  We have long advocated for smart regulatory safeguards around the world that help build trust in AIl and we’rel and we’re pleased to see recent meaningful steps taken by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Recognizing the transformative potential of AI and the need for a coordinated approach to building trust, ASEAN recently adopted the ASEAN Guide on AI Governance and Ethics (ASEAN AI Guide) at their Digital Ministers’ Meeting chaired by Singapore on 30 January - 2 February. The ASEAN AI Guide is “a practical guide for organizations in the region that wish to design, develop, and deploy traditional AI technologies.”  

The ASEAN AI Guide represents a significant first step for a region increasingly focused on AI and trust, helping shape a collective approach to AI governance. It lays the foundation for a shared understanding of responsible and ethical considerations. As ASEAN Member States develop their respective domestic AI governance approaches, the ASEAN AI Guide creates critical momentum in advancing robust mechanisms promoting responsible and ethical AI governance.  

Highlights of the ASEAN AI Guide

Workday’s global AI policy advocacy has centered on key themes including the need for a nuanced risk-based approach, leveraging impact assessments as a tried and tested accountability tool, recognizing shared responsibilities across the AI value chain, and the need for international interoperability.

The ASEAN AI Guide supports a number of these areas and will be a guiding light for the region’s AI regulatory approach by recommending:

  • Internal governance structures and measures: To ensure actual accountability, the Guide recommends clear roles and responsibilities of personnel engaged in AI processes.

  • Risk-based approach: The Guide adopts a pragmatic and forward-thinking risk-based approach in governing AI, recognizing that not all AI applications pose the same level of risk and includes an emphasis on human-in-the-loop approach.

  • Risk assessments: The emphasis on iterative risk assessments throughout the AI life cycle within the ASEAN Guide on AI provides member state governments a crucial and structured methodology to evaluate the potential risks associated with AI systems. 

Broader Asia-Pacific AI Conversations

The ASEAN AI Guide marks an important advance in the region's journey towards responsible and ethical AI governance and it comes at a time when the broader Asia-Pacific community is leaning into the AI issue.  

For example, Japan led the G7’s Hiroshima Process on AI principles, and  launched a public consultation on a set of draft AI guidelines for business. Australia sought feedback last year on their Safe and Responsible AI governance approach and issued an interim report in January 2024 echoing similar themes in the ASEAN AI Guide.  Workday was pleased to provide our thoughts to the Australian consultation. In addition, Singapore had also launched the AI Verify Foundation, of which Workday is a member, to bring together AI stakeholders to help develop and use AI testing frameworks, code bases, standards, and best practices.  

A consistent theme in the region’s ongoing focus on AI is the need to balance economic opportunity while ensuring meaningful guardrails are in place. The approach outlined in the ASEAN AI Guide will not only work to enhance regulatory effectiveness but also promotes a culture of responsible AI practices.

Ask to ASEAN: Continue Fostering Global AI Governance Interoperability

Just as we have seen in the Asia-Pacific region, there have been significant AI policy developments across the globe in the last year. In the U.S., preceding the issuance of the Biden Administration's expansive AI executive orders and consistent attention among Congressional leaders, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) launched its AI Risk Management Framework. At the same time, the long-awaited European Union AI Act is nearing the final stage of adoption. Workday is pleased to have worked closely with U.S. and EU policymakers on these issues and others.

By adopting a risk-based approach, emphasizing risk assessments, and considering interoperability, ASEAN is well-positioned to contribute to regional and global discussions on AI regulation. ASEAN, the U.S. and the EU share common goals in promoting responsible AI governance. By fostering collaboration, these entities can exchange best practices, align regulatory frameworks, and collectively address emerging challenges.  

It is evident that a vital partnership between industry and government is indispensable to guarantee the responsible, safe, and secure development and deployment of AI. The journey has just begun, and as governments across Asia continue to develop their thinking on AI policy, Workday remains committed to playing a constructive role to advance policies that build trust in AI and drive responsible innovation.

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