International support bolsters Ukraine’s digital services, South Korea to host next AI Safety Summit: news in brief

By on 18/04/2024 | Updated on 18/04/2024
Photo: Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine

Global Government Forum’s weekly news roundup of public service intelligence

Japan and UNDP provide support for Ukraine’s Diia service

Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation has received cryptographic, network and electrical switching equipment from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to ensure its e-governance app Diia can continue to deliver social services to citizens amid the ongoing war with Russia.

Procured through funding from the Government of Japan as part of the DIA Support Project established by the UNDP in Ukraine, the equipment is expected to maintain cross-functionality of Diia’s data centres and computer network. This infrastructure is key to Diia’s service portals, which include Diia.Education and Diia.Business. It is also expected to keep the system’s fault tolerance high, making it more resilient to cyberattacks.

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for Innovation, Development of Education, Science and Technologies, said: “This equipment makes it possible to strengthen the Diia infrastructure and information systems that are key to the provision of public e-services…[so]…that Ukrainians will always be able to obtain state services in Diia quickly, conveniently and securely.”

Fedorov added that his team would work to analyse and predict “all possible cyberattacks and threats by “regularly assess[ing] the level of system security to identify vulnerabilities and eliminate deficiencies”.

Jaco Cilliers, UNDP resident representative to Ukraine, said the UNDP would remain committed to “helping the government increase its resilience, ability to function and provide services”.

“With the support of international partners, we are helping to strengthen [Ukraine’s] infrastructure, including IT, because it allows us to protect and ensure uninterrupted provision of public services to citizens.”

Listen on the Leading Questions podcast: From digital ID to the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – how to deal with crises in government

AI safety summit moves to Seoul, UK develops new laws, and Canada announces investment in its high-growth AI sector

After an inaugural Artificial Intelligence (AI) safety summit in Bletchley Park last summer, the UK and the Republic of Korea have begun preparations to join forces on a new event due to take place on 21 and 22 May this year.

The summit will build on the Bletchley Declaration made at last year’s gathering, as well as deepen agreements on AI safety that were reached at the event. Discussions this year are expected to focus on the ways governments must ensure citizens of all backgrounds and abilities benefit from the power of AI technologies. There will also be conversations about the importance of innovation, particularly in areas such as healthcare, drug discovery, education and countering climate change.

Almost a year since the first summit, the UK is working on new legislation to regulate AI.

The UK’s prime minister Rishi Sunak previously stressed that he did not want to “rush” into placing strictures on the technology. However, the new laws under consideration could see limits placed on the production of large language models, which underpin AI products such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

Companies that are actively developing sophisticated models could be asked to submit their algorithms to government for evaluation, along with evidence that appropriate safety tests have been applied.

According to a report by the Financial Times, UK officials are “exploring moving on regulation for the most powerful AI models”, while the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is taking time to decide what AI legislation for this would involve. 

Some concerns have been raised about tech firms’ potential influence over markets. Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, said that a small number of large tech companies “may have both the ability and the incentive to shape these markets” if given the opportunity.

The regulator also identified more than 90 partnerships and strategic investments in AI involving the same companies: Google, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, Amazon and Nvidia.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Canada announced a CAN$2.4bn (US$1.39bn) package to secure what prime minister Justin Trudeau called “Canada’s AI advantage”.

Trudeau commented in a statement: “These investments will accelerate job growth in Canada’s AI sector and beyond, boost productivity by helping researchers and businesses develop and adopt AI and ensure this is done responsibly.” He noted that AI has “incredible potential to transform the economy, improve the way we work, and enhance our way of life”.

Trudeau said that scaling up the country’s AI ambitions in a way “that brings everyone along” would remain critical to the government’s investment plan going forward.

“For Millennials and Gen Z, who feel their hard work isn’t paying off like it did for previous generations, we must invest in good-paying opportunities that help them get ahead,” he said.

“That’s why we’re focused on creating more good jobs, including in innovation and technology, which are among the highest paying of all industries.”

According to Trudeau’s statement, job growth in AI increased by nearly one third in Canada in the past year, with most AI jobs paying “well above the average income”.

“The rapid advance of generative AI today will unlock immense economic potential for Canada, significantly improving productivity and reducing the time workers have to spend on repetitive tasks,” he said.

Read more: Canadian government departments are balancing AI optimism with caution

Australian government takes aim at job non-compete clauses

The Australian federal government has said that non-compete clauses in employment contracts are hurting competition and economic growth, with some officials accusing franchise businesses of behaving like cartels.

In a speech given to the McKell Institute, an Australian public policy group, assistant minister for competition Dr Andrew Leigh, said that such clauses were more common than ever and were making it harder for people in all sectors to move freely between jobs and contribute to other firms.

“Now, gardeners are being forced to take gardening leave,” he said, adding that there was mounting evidence that contracts that prevent timely transitions to new employment were “harming job mobility, innovation and wages growth”.

The Competition Review, established by the Australian Treasurer in 2023 to set government’s priorities for modernising the economy, has invited public submissions on the subject of ‘non-competes’ and other restraining influences on trade agreements between businesses, including no-poach agreements that are often made without the employee’s knowledge.

Dr Leigh called lock-in clauses “the bluntest tool in the shed” for employers seeking protection of their information, adding that the practice risked negative knock-on effects in the wider economy.

Cracking down on them could also create more fluid movement between the private and public sectors, which could have positive knock-on effects for contracts and labour hire in the Australian Public Service.

Read more: Australian public servants granted ‘right to disconnect’ but with exceptions, says minister

Climate action plans an ‘economic springboard’ for countries says UN chief

Simon Stiell, executive secretary of UN climate body UNFCCC, has said that climate action plans are key to countries’ economic growth and that governments are at the “start of a race” for clean energy prosperity.

Speaking at London’s Chatham House, he said that the coming years would determine “the biggest winners in a new clean energy economy”, adding that national climate plans “must be investment plans for sustainable and strong economies”.

Members of the UNFCCC, made up of 198 parties comprising 197 states and the European Union, are on track to submit new nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in 2025. All NDCs must fall within the 1.5°C temperature limit set by the 2015 Paris climate agreement. These contributions should also come with clear explanations as to how “finance [will be] unlocked” in order to achieve them, Stiell said. He described the need for “a quantum leap in climate finance” this year if NDCs are to stand up to scrutiny.

Stiell also said that by successfully reducing their carbon emissions, countries could deliver “better health and huge savings for governments and households”.

The UN Cop 29 climate summit, set to take place in November in Baku, Azerbaijan, is where countries will be expected to choose their individual climate finance goals. Stiell urged the world’s G7 and G20 groups to lead by example, drawing attention to the fact that their member nation states collectively produce around 80% of global emissions.

Finally, he warned national governments not to use current geopolitical challenges as excuses for “timidity” against the backdrop of the worsening climate crisis.

Read more: Court rules national climate action is a human rights issue

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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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