Emerging Technologies

AI and the expanding 'digital economy' will help bridge global divides. Here's why

Industry 4.0 and IoT(Internet of Things). Factory automation system. AI(Artificial Intelligence).

Creating global standards for AI can boost the economies of emerging markets. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sung Hwan Cho
President, International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
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This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions
  • The digital economy and AI were key talking points at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting of the New Champions - or 'Summer Davos'.
  • It is estimated that more than two-thirds of new value created over the next decade will come from digitally enabled platforms and AI is infiltrating every industry.
  • We need to continue to build capacity and international standards so that emerging economies can get the most out of digital technologies and participate fully in global trade.

The Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC), held last week in Dalian, China, was an opportunity for crucial decision-makers to come together and set the scene on a variety of issues. The global outlook on the rise of the digital economy and the rapid permeation of AI across industries were particularly popular talking points.

We are all aware that the global economy is rapidly digitalizing. It is estimated that more than two-thirds of new value created over the next decade will come from digitally enabled platforms. At the same time, AI is infiltrating every industry.

Accelerated advances in technology can greatly help us improve societies and economies, but multistakeholder coordination and governance to manage these advances – with their substantial benefits and significant risks – are essential.

It is imperative that as the digital economy expands, we ensure no one is left behind.

As I reflect on the week, I have consolidated key takeaways from sessions and open dialogue with a range of stakeholders on the global outlook for the digital economy – and how we should collaboratively embrace a future of new limits, whilst ensuring we bridge the global divide.

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How is the World Economic Forum creating guardrails for Artificial Intelligence?

Access and inequality remain a significant issue

The digital economy brings enormous opportunities, but also challenges. Nearly 2.7 billion people worldwide lack access to the internet. Digital technologies have the potential to enable new value for everyone, but their acceleration also risks further inequality and exclusion, including an unequal concentration of resources and instability.

With widening digital divides, upskilling and reskilling globally will be essential. Technological transformation is already disrupting millions of jobs worldwide and this is only set to increase. Workers and workforces will need innovative support with the rise of the new digital economy.

This is where international standards come in. Standards are vital to ensuring the digital transformation occurs in a cooperative way.

We must collaborate, evolve and transition together

As technology continues to evolve, so too will the ways in which the world does business, collaborates and consumes information. Collectively, we must all use digital infrastructure to develop innovative models, navigate disruption and transition in a purpose-driven, sustainable and inclusive way.

Considered acceleration of digital transformation for long-term growth is essential. Digital economies can deliver positively for people, the planet and overall economic prosperity. By 2025, tens of billions of smart devices will be collecting, analyzing and sharing data to allow innovative products and services to better meet the needs of citizens, societies and economies.

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AI must champion equality

Ensuring the responsible development of AI across industries is crucial for its safe, trustworthy and ethical advancement. Cooperation is essential. AI's ability to transform industries is profound and far-reaching. It offers automation, intelligence, rapid data analysis and optimization, all of which enhance industry.

We strive to work closely with other international organizations, regulators, policymakers and end users in a collaborative and cohesive ecosystem. This addresses the multiple ways in which AI can be used and ensures global buy-in and trust in the resulting standards and the widest and most responsible adoption of AI that benefits all.

AI and standards

The International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) mission is to make lives easier, safer and better; by establishing globally recognized standards - and AI is no exception. AI standards have the potential to provide a framework to guide the responsible and ethical use of AI technologies and cover areas such as privacy, bias, transparency and accountability.

AI technologies must work seamlessly together and exchange data effectively. This is especially important as AI becomes more integrated in industries and applications. Furthermore, international standards incorporating desired societal and ethical outcomes serve as a core framework for developing, deploying and regulating AI systems.

Digital standards support the growth and acceleration of the digital economy while ensuring the global divide is bridged. With the rapid uptake of AI worldwide, standards utilized across the global community are expected to contribute significantly to the shape of AI governance in the coming years.

We must all work to reduce the digital divide

One of our main focuses during the AMNC was to reinforce that these emerging technologies benefit everyone – not just the chosen few – and that those in positions of leadership play their part in ensuring the digital divide reduces. Engaging with developing countries is crucial to this.

We need to continue to build capacity so emerging economies get the most out of emerging technologies and, alongside them, international standards. This will help them better participate in global trade and harness digital opportunities for their businesses and communities.

Looking to a future of innovation - together

The Annual Meeting of the New Champions was an important global moment to convene on new frontiers for growth, with AI and the digital economy at the centre of the conversation. These topics remain top of the agenda for the ISO over the coming months – including at our Annual Meeting in Cartagena de Indias this September.

The event this year will bring the international standards community together and feature several AI sessions, inviting us to continue to challenge the status quo and look to a future where innovation, quality and sustainability have no limits – especially when we work together.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Emerging TechnologiesManufacturing and Value Chains
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