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Draft National AI Policy in Pakistan Raises Concerns Amidst Pending Data Laws


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The Pakistani government recently introduced a draft National AI Policy, triggering a debate on the readiness of the country to regulate and govern artificial intelligence (AI). The policy, spanning 41 pages, has been drafted without finalizing dedicated data laws, which have been in the draft stage since 2018. This raises questions about the effectiveness and implementation of the AI policy itself.

Divided into four pillars and further categorized into 15 targets, the draft policy aims to enable AI through awareness and readiness, facilitate the AI market, build a progressive and trusted environment, and promote transformation and evolution. One proposal is the establishment of a National Artificial Intelligence Fund, allocating a minimum of 30% of the Research and Development Fund (Ignite) to it. However, concerns arise regarding the administrative structure, as it suggests up to 11 board directors and a CEO for the fund.

Another focal point of the policy is the creation of a network of Centers of Excellence, which will serve as hubs for AI adoption and development. While this initiative aims to foster growth, critics argue that it may disproportionately benefit the construction industry rather than address critical infrastructure needs, such as cold storage and transportation, which are vital for sectors like agriculture.

The draft policy also emphasizes the standardization of data from state-owned enterprises, boards, and civil authorities for AI-based algorithms. This data would be accessible through a sandbox-based licensing approach under the Centers of Excellence, allowing tech companies to train their models on large datasets from sectors like health, education, and utilities.

The policy sets ambitious targets for workforce training, aiming to upskill one million existing and new IT graduates in high-impact applied skills related to AI and allied technologies by 2027. It plans to achieve this through internship programs, scholarships, and collaborations with the private sector. Furthermore, the policy envisions support for academic research on AI, offering logistical, fiscal, and data support for thesis and paper publications.

Critics argue that the draft policy appears to be more about ticking checkboxes and capitalizing on the hype around AI, rather than addressing critical issues and ensuring effective implementation. With the absence of finalized data laws, concerns are raised about the readiness of Pakistan to regulate and govern AI effectively.

As the debate continues, it remains to be seen how the Pakistani government will address the concerns raised and refine the draft National AI Policy to ensure it aligns with the country’s needs and capabilities.

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