February 8, 2018
AI will become one of the most defining technologies across industries, and the nations that get it right are bound to break to the next level of economic and social development. The US and China have been at a race to harness the potential that the application of artificial intelligence holds for the national economic environment and international competitiveness.
There are a number of societal and organizational characteristics that China possesses that might put it at an advantage in the development of advanced AI. The first is China’s particular brand of socialist market economy gives the government a significant amount of control and involvement in market forces. Not only does this mean Beijing can push for over-the-horizon innovation where market forces would typically fail, but it also has created a unique level of cooperation between Chinese tech companies and the government. This gives Beijing significant economic leverage to expand its political clout around the world, including through its One Belt, One Road initiative.
Perhaps what is most notable is the Chinese government’s nearly complete access to consumer data – the lifeblood of machine learning and artificial intelligence – with little to no privacy protections. The Chinese startup Yitu Tech, which maintains a close relationship with state security, shares access to the biometric data of 1.8 billion Chinese that it feeds into its facial recognition software. But while the Chinese government continues to maintain complete access to the data of its citizens – and shares it with industry partners – there does seem to be a recent effort to create data privacy protections among China’s industry similar to the EU’S General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which could have long-term implications for Chinese AI development.
From China’s perspective, AI will be like mobile and desktop computing before that. It will be an economic revolution that creates an entire new generation of digital capabilities in physical systems that they can sell and embed around the world. So they see the development of AI as an opportunity to develop a presence and set the baseline for how other countries around the world, particularly in the developing world, interact with technology and data. – William Carter, Deputy Director, Technology Policy Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Apple Inc. will accept Chinese mobile payment app Alipay in its local stores. The tie-up will make Alipay, run by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, the first third-party mobile payment system to be accepted at any physical Apple store worldwide.
Apple’s own payment system has had a lukewarm reception in China. The Cupertino-based firm will accept Alipay payment across its 41 brick-and-mortar retail stores in China.
Apple is also shifting user data to China-based servers later this month to meet local rules and last year removed dozens of local and foreign VPN apps from its Chinese app store.
Over a billion people cannot prove who they are. As a result, they can’t access life-enhancing services such as healthcare, education, financial services, connectivity, and social protections. This identity gap – affecting some 14% of the world’s population – is widest in developing countries across Africa and Asia, and creates significant challenges around implementing and measuring social engagement and upholding civil rights such as voting, healthcare, employment, economic participation, and education. For vulnerable populations – rural residents, the poor, children, forcibly displaced persons, among others – the impact can be devastating.
How can we solve this identity crisis? There are three ways that digital identity is transforming lives today:
Mobile Birth Registration: Globally, 1 in 3 children under the age of five – roughly 230 million children – have not had their births officially registered. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile technology is increasing registration rates in Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, and Uganda. In Tanzania, a mobile registration platform has registered 1.7 million births since 2013, helping to raise the overall level of registration and certification in the project regions from 10.5% to 79%.
Identity for Refugees: There are >65 million forcibly displaced persons (FDPs) worldwide, many of whom have been displaced for more than two decades. Further, ~20 million people are displaced every year due to natural disasters and climate-related events. DPs are more likely to face identity-related barriers that contribute to digital, financial & social exclusion, and also limit their access to mobile connectivity and mobile financial services. In Malaysia, UNHCR has begun issuing photo ID cards that can be scanned and verified using a free mobile application called ‘UNHCR VERIFY-MY.’ The mobile application allows anyone, including law enforcement officials and other authorities engaged in UNHCR’s protection work, to scan a QR code on the back of the ID and visually verify the cardholder against the personal details and photograph displayed on the mobile device’s screen.
Blockchain for Development: In Jordan, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Building Blocks platform has been used to transfer $1 million in food vouchers to 10,500 Syrian refugees, using the system to facilitate more than 220,000 individual transactions.