‘AI, an area of strategic importance’ | Sunday Observer

‘AI, an area of strategic importance’

The Sri Lanka Association of Software and Services Companies (SLASSCOM) launched its Artificial Intelligence (AI) policy for Sri Lanka in Colombo last week, with the aim of using modern technology to carry out daily activities in a more efficient and effective manner.

“As machine learning abilities improve, world governments are now investing even more in AI research. It is important to keep ahead of the global AI curve. We are delighted to have been able to develop this policy framework, where we have put forward strategy and investment recommendations across various sectors on how to strengthen Sri Lanka’s competitiveness in AI,” Chairman of SLASSCOM, Jeevan Gnanam said.

It is necessary to keep ahead in this technological revolution and encourage uptake by the public and private sectors to ensure competitiveness and to shape the conditions for its development and use, he said.

Developed in partnership with the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) and the Ministry of Digital Infrastructure and Telecom, the document puts forward a national approach to how Sri Lanka can place AI and robotics at the service of its citizens and economy.

The 21st century has seen the rapid deployment of advanced technologies by individuals, corporations, and governments. Artificial intelligence has become an area of strategic importance, the impact of which can be felt across many sectors, and as a result is now considered a key driver of economic development. There is now an unprecedented opportunity to harness these technologies and use them to advance not only economies but also to bring solutions to some of the world’s looming challenges, he said.

Sri Lanka as a nation, given its strength and capacity, is equipped with the potential to make use of this transformative technology, to emerge as a key player amongst its South Asian counterparts for AI policy, research, and delivery.

Through tangible guidance based on the three tenets of responsible AI development -i.e. transparency, nation before self, and data driven recommendations- the document proposes multi-tiered approaches to AI from the perspectives of education, technology, ethics, standardization, and policy, all with the intention of achieving seven primary high-level objectives, Minister of Digital Infrastructure and Information Technology, Ajith P. Perera said.

The seven objectives are to increase awareness and adaptation in both the public and private sector, to introduce legislation that will establish a level playing field for AI, to better equip people and society for an AI nation, to introduce AI as a tool for good, to incentivize, fundamental and applied research in AI, to identify niche opportunities in AI and to attract leading global technology and AI companies to setup

The policy outlines the role AI can play in the fields of education, government, agriculture, and healthcare. While the blueprint identifies shortcomings in the current ecosystem, it also proposes solutions, strategies, and policies with the aim to systematically address and resolve these concerns.Its focus on the education sector calls for a scaling up of AI skill development, and for the actual implementation of AI in the education system in Sri Lanka on a country scale. It proposes greater investment in fundamental and applied R&D for AI-enabled government policy in order to be able to boost industrial capacity, and subsequently economic growth. In agriculture, it proposes the impactful use of AI-powered predictive analytics to increase crop yields. Issues within the Sri Lankan healthcare system can also be resolved with the use of AI imaging tools, and the automation of clinical trials and even surgery.