Australia’s productivity chief urges minimal AI regulation; Malaysian government set to roll out digital ID: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 14/12/2023 | Updated on 15/12/2023
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Global Government Forum’s digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

Don’t overregulate AI, warns Australia’s productivity chief

Australia’s productivity commissioner Stephen King has said that the country should exercise caution around the regulation of artificial intelligence.

King’s warning came during the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA)’s AI Leadership Summit on 8 December. Stressing that the focus of regulators should be on how AI is used rather than on the nature of the technology, he said the “starting point” should be to examine where regulations were already applied to AI, whether in “consumer law, copyright law, privacy law, discrimination law”.

“If it’s not clear, can it be clarified? …If it’s not covered by the existing rules, can we modify them? If the answer is still no, can we have a technologically neutral regulation covering use?” he said.

Elaborating on his fear that overregulation could become the default approach, King added: “By saying things like large language models need to be regulated [because they] are too dangerous, developments will go overseas. You just deal yourself out of the game.”

He urged lawmakers “not to lose the perspective” and to play the “long game”, keeping in mind the potential of AI to make dramatic productivity gains in government services such as “human services, education, health, disability, aged care”.

“[These services] make up around 22% of our economy. It’s also one of the areas of the worst productivity growth in our economy,” King said.

Focusing on the example of human services, he said government would need to be an “exemplar” in the field and to “take a lead in the ethical and the relevant diffusion of AI technologies in human services. This is going to mean a change in government mindset”.

Read more: Australia issues guidance on how use AI in government

Malaysian government set to roll out digital ID in 2024 

The Malaysian government is to make its digital ID service available to the public in July next year, according to the agency responsible for implementing it.

The initiative, known as MyDigital ID, provides a portal through which citizens can access government services.

Dr Saat Shukri Embong – head of the technology venture sector of state-run microelectronics research agency Mimos, which is leading the project – said that the service would not replace Malaysia’s identity card system, known as MyKad, but would exist alongside it.

“With MyDigital ID, you will have access to all [government services] without the need of username and password, because your identity is already verified through our app,” he said.

He added that the Malaysian government currently offers more than 1,700 services to citizens and that the digital ID would enable a further 300.

MyDigital ID is expected to be rolled out in four phases. First, it will be rolled out to Malaysian cabinet members, then to civil servants, then to government beneficiaries, such as subsidies receivers, and finally to the whole population.

Saat said that the rollout would follow this sequence because the government wanted to ensure that “there are use cases available before the general public come onboard”.

Register for our webinar: Digital ID: Can governments get citizens on board?

Global Government Leaders’ Forum to examine challenges faced by public services

The Global Government Leaders’ Forum is to return in 2024 to bring together top public servants to share insights on how to run modern public services.

The event will be held on 23 January 2024 at the Civil Service College, Singapore, where speakers including Leo Yip, the head of the civil service in Singapore, Taimar Peterkop, state secretary of Estonia, and Lord Gus O’Donnell, the former UK cabinet secretary, will discuss how civil service leaders can help meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The conference will examine how traditional approaches to civil service delivery, focused on hierarchical, top-down organisation and management, need to change to respond to the economic, social and environmental problems faced by governments, and how effective responses require close partnership working by officials across departmental boundaries.

The conference will also look at how new tools available to civil servants – notably digital technologies and ‘big data’ – can unlock new collaborative, iterative approaches to delivery across government, with sessions looking at how to achieve real transformation through a modern approach to civil service productivity, and the benefits and risks of the use of AI in government.

Sessions will also look at how governments can chart an equitable path to net zero, and how governments can address the crises of today and help avert the catastrophes of tomorrow.

The Forum is free to all civil service managers from across the region to attend. You can view the agenda here, and register to attend here.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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