The G20 Summit: More Technological Challenges Ahead
India managed to overcome deep geopolitical divisions within the G20 to shepherd leaders at their summit this week toward common ground. New Delhi’s success demonstrates that the group can reflect its developing country members’ priorities and interests, including those related to using digital technologies and accelerating inclusive and sustainable development.
The leaders embraced the G20 framework for Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), to which their ministers responsible for digital economy agreed last month, and emphasized the important role that it and other digital technologies can play in turbocharging progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This was a signature achievement for the Indian G20 presidency, especially in the run-up to the UN General Assembly. There, global leaders will confront some uncomfortable truths at the halfway point for achieving the ambitious SDG agenda. More than 80% of its targets are not on schedule. In some cases, progress is regressing.
Consensus on other areas of technology governance, including artificial intelligence (AI), proved elusive. G20 leaders agreed to recommit to the group’s 2019 principles on trustworthy AI and to continue discussing AI governance, but they refrained from making additional commitments. Some, however, offered thoughts on next steps. Recognizing the speed and scale of the development of new technologies, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasized the need to build on the 2019 principles and called for a framework for “responsible human-centric AI governance”. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida echoed the call even though his country leads a process under its G7 presidency this year to forge consensus on AI rules in that body. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for all countries to come together with experts through a body structured like the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to better understand AI’s potential risks and benefits. For his part, US President Joe Biden advocated for an approach that prioritizes a commitment to responsible AI development, deployment, and use.
Since the launch of ChatGPT less than a year ago, such proposals for AI governance have piled up, many drawing inspiration from ideas from international institutions. In addition to von der Leyen’s proposal for the IPCC model, establishing an International Atomic Energy Agency-equivalent body for AI has been floated, as has a Geotechnology Stability Board modeled on the G20’s Financial Stability Board.
All these proposals are likely to be considered when Brazil, which has already announced that its 2024 G20 presidency will focus on equity and multilateral reform, hosts next year’s summit, followed by South Africa in 2025. The string of major developing country hosts, and the recent addition of the African Union as a permanent G20 member, mean that the group’s work in the coming years will increasingly reflect the digital priorities of its developing-country members.