Artificial Intelligence (AI) Breakthrough

ASEAN’s Approach to AI Governance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASEAN, DPDP Bill, GPAI

Mains level: Key takeaways from Global AI Governance Measures


  • Background: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently unveiled its AI governance and ethics guidelines during the 4th ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting in Singapore.
  • Objective: These guidelines outline a voluntary and business-friendly vision for managing AI technologies while fostering economic growth.

About Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Established August 8, 1967
Members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
Objective To promote political and economic cooperation and regional stability among member countries.
Key Areas of Cooperation
  • Economic Integration
  • Political and Security Cooperation
  • Social and Cultural Cooperation
Significance Promotes economic growth, stability, and peace in the Southeast Asian region. It is also a forum for diplomatic dialogue and conflict resolution.
ASEAN Secretariat Jakarta, Indonesia (The ASEAN Secretariat is the organization responsible for coordinating ASEAN activities.)

ASEAN’s AI Regulations

  • Flexibility and Specificity: ASEAN’s regulations are less prescriptive compared to the EU’s, reflecting the region’s diverse digital ecosystem and infrastructure.
  • Soft Law Approach: Instead of enacting hard law, ASEAN favors voluntary guidelines and codes of conduct to regulate AI.

Comparison with EU’s AI Regulation

  • Diverging Approaches: ASEAN’s approach to AI regulation contrasts with the European Union’s (EU) more stringent framework, known as the AI Act, which imposes stricter rules on AI usage.
  • EU Lobbying Efforts: EU officials have attempted to persuade Asian nations to align with their regulations, but ASEAN’s guidelines signal a departure from the EU’s stance.

About EU Framework for AI Regulation

European Union has prepared to implement the world’s first comprehensive legislation aimed at regulating AI, with a parliamentary vote expected in early 2024 and potential enforcement by 2025.

Components of the EU Framework:

Safeguards in Legislation
  • Individuals can file complaints against AI violations.
  • Clear boundaries on AI use by law enforcement.
  • Strong restrictions on facial recognition and AI manipulation of human behaviour.
  • Tough penalties for companies found breaking the rules.
  • Real-time biometric surveillance in public areas is permitted only for serious threats.
Categorization of AI Applications AI applications are classified into four risk categories based on their level of risk and invasiveness.

  1. Banned Applications: Mass-scale facial recognition and behavioural control AI applications are largely banned.
  2. High-Risk Applications: Allowed with certification and transparency requirements.
  3. Medium-Risk Applications: Deployable without restrictions, with disclosure to users about AI interaction.
  4. No Risk
Other Regulatory Achievements General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): Enforced since May 2018, focusing on privacy and data processing consent.

Challenges in ASEAN’s Regulatory Landscape

  • Diverse Political Systems: ASEAN comprises nations with varied political systems, making consensus-building on issues like censorship challenging.
  • Varying Tech Sector Maturity: Disparities exist within ASEAN, with some members boasting advanced tech sectors while others are still developing their digital infrastructure.

ASEAN’s Voluntary Approach

  • Avoiding Over-Regulation: ASEAN nations are cautious about over-regulating AI to avoid stifling innovation and driving investment away.
  • Emphasis on Talent Development: The guidelines prioritize nurturing AI talent, upskilling workforces, and investing in research and development.

Future Prospects for ASEAN’s AI Regulation

  • Potential for Stricter Regulations: While ASEAN’s current approach is incremental, some member states, like Indonesia and the Philippines, have expressed interest in enacting comprehensive AI legislation.
  • EU’s Influence: The implementation of the EU’s AI Act will influence ASEAN’s policymakers, shaping their decisions on future AI regulation.

How India is planning to regulate AI?

Major Advocacies
  • #AIFORALL: Aimed at inclusivity, started in 2018.
  • NITI Aayog’s National Strategy for AI (2018): Includes a chapter on responsible AI.
  • Principles of Responsible AI: Outlined in a 2021 paper by NITI Aayog.
  • IndiaAI Program: Launched in 2023 by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • TRAI Recommendations: Proposed a risk-based framework for regulation.
Major Sector Initiatives
  • Healthcare: Ethical guidelines for AI issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research in June 2023.
  • Capital Market: SEBI circular in January 2019 guiding AI policies in the capital market.
  • Education: National Education Policy 2020 suggests integrating AI awareness into school courses.
  • India joined the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) as a founding member in 2020.
  • Became the Chair of the GPAI in November 2022 after France.
  • Hosted the GPAI Summit in December 2023.


  • Policy Considerations: ASEAN’s approach to AI governance balances the need for regulation with the promotion of innovation and economic growth.
  • Monitoring EU Developments: ASEAN will closely monitor the implementation and impact of the EU’s AI Act to inform its own regulatory decisions.
  • Evolution of AI Regulation: The trajectory of AI regulation in ASEAN will depend on factors such as technological advancements, regional cooperation, and global regulatory trends.

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