At its core, the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be characterized by the development of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the internet of things (IoT) and blockchain, all of which will change the way we live and work. New technologies are emerging as a result of fast-paced innovation efforts which are impossible to predict and will profoundly affect not only which goods and services are offered (and how), but also how they shall be consumed.
Specifically, these advances in technology can be used to improve access to and the quality of service delivery, prepare the workforce for technological changes in the workplace, encourage innovation for human development, and empower marginalized segments of the population. The convergence of different groups of technologies, underpinned by universal connectivity, big data, and high-speed computing power—and propelled by artificial intelligence—is unleashing technological advances at an unprecedented speed.
As General Purpose AI technologies continues to improve
They shall have a substantial impact on the economy with respect to its productivity, growth, inequality, market power, innovation and employment. In turn, this shall go on to shape the development of AI in the country for many generations to come and put Pakistan on a path of growth trajectory in the field of AI. In the backdrop of this new paradigm, the Government of Pakistan should adopt a proactive stance and actively co-design the necessary environment and regulatory regime to support the responsible conception, development and use of emerging technologies, starting with AI.
Given AI shall be influencing many areas of life, changing how we live, work and interact with technology – it can provide prosperity and economic development to countries that are on top of the game. However, those without a concrete strategy can be left behind, widening the digital divide between and within the nations. The formulation of a National Artificial Strategy (NAS) should therefore be pursued by the incumbent government to help Pakistan plan its technology and education ecosystem accordingly to meet the challenges of developing high-quality AI capabilities while ensuring equity, privacy, transparency, accountability, economic and social impact are all accounted for.
NAS is a government-driven strategy to utilize the technology towards national goals and minimize risks. The strategy involves developing research capacity, skilling the workforce, ensuring ethics, and maintaining the competitiveness of their economy. The ecosystem in the country has known challenges like inadequate digital infrastructure, digital literacy, digitization, data availability, research, and skills. Critics might argue that the country cannot leverage on NAS due to these challenges. However, it is these challenges that reinforce the urgent need for a NAS, focusing on the same challenges and strengthening these areas as the first steps of the strategy.
How can Pakistan improve its approach to these crises?
Pakistan precisely needs these initiatives to strengthen the ecosystem and attract the right foreign investment. Though its software industry has the potential maturity to adopt AI, it is far behind, primarily because of the deficiency of popularity, research expertise, knowledge, experts, and sponsorships for AI projects. Also, the foreign investment it receives should be towards enhancing production capability, increasing jobs and exports for sustained growth, which isn’t the case now. A key priority should be the diffusion of AI across the economy to drive economic and productivity growth due to AI, as well as to stimulate the development and adoption of AI technologies in high-potential, low-AI maturity sectors.
The government ought to develop such a NAS keeping in mind a repository of short-, medium- and long-term AI challenges to motivate industry and society to identify and implement real-world solutions to the strategic priorities. There are risks of not having a concrete NAS. AI evolution is rapid, and most governments are only reacting rather than leading.
This passive involvement could result in unpredictable outcomes unless actively led, strategized and planned by the governments. The consequences of a few countries dominating AI are far-reaching. The well-established countries in AI will emerge in multiple sectors, their companies leading business and their military services becoming exceptionally strong, creating a race for superior independent weaponry – leading towards extremely dangerous ways of executing war.
Pakistan will therefore be at a disadvantage on the economic and military front unless concrete steps are taken now. As William Shakespeare had once so elegantly remarked in his timeless classic Julius Caesar – “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.”
The writer is an economist and strategic planning expert. He is currently also serving as an advisory board member for the International Group of Artificial Intelligence (IGOAI). He can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.