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Negotiating technical standards for artificial intelligence

By Bart Hogeveen, Arindrajit Basu, Isha Suri and Baani Grewal

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) is delighted to share its latest report – the result of a multi-year project on Artificial Intelligence (AI), technical standards and diplomacy - that conducts a deep-dive into the important, yet often opaque and complicated world of technical standards.

At the heart of how AI technologies are developed, deployed and used in a responsible manner sit a suite of technical standards: rules, guidelines and characteristics that ensure the safety, security and interoperability of a product.

The report authors highlight that the Indo-Pacific, including Australia and India, are largely playing catch-up in AI standards initiatives. The United States and China are leading the pack, followed by European nations thanks to their size, scope and resources of their national standardisation communities as well as their domestic AI sectors.

Not being strongly represented in the world of AI governance and technical standards is a strategic risk for Indo-Pacific nations. For a region that’s banking on the opportunities of a digital and technology-enabled economy and has large swathes of its population in at-risk jobs, it’s a matter of national and economic security that Indo-Pacific stakeholders are active and have a big say in how AI technologies will operate and be used.

Being part of the conversations and negotiations is everything, and as such, governments in the Indo-Pacific - including Australia and India - should invest more in whole-of-nation techdiplomacy capabilities.

Authored by analysts at ASPI and India’s Centre for Internet and Society, this new report ‘Negotiating technical standards for artificial intelligence: A techdiplomacy playbook for policymakers and technologists in the Indo-Pacific' - and accompanying website ( - explains the current state of play in global AI governance, looks at the role of technical standards, outlines how agreements on technical standards are negotiated and created, and describes who are the biggest ‘movers and shakers’.

The authors note that there are currently no representatives from Southeast Asia (except Singapore), Australia, NZ or the Pacific Islands on the UN Secretary-General Advisory Body on AI – a body that’s tasked to come up with suggestions on how to govern AI in a representative and inclusive manner with an eye to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The capacity of the Indo-Pacific to engage in critical technology standards has historically been lower in comparison to other regions. However, given the rapid and global impact of AI and the crucial role of technical standards, the report authors argue that dialogue and greater collaboration between policymakers, technologists and civil society has never been more important.

It is hoped this playbook will help key stakeholders - governments, industry, civil society and academia - step through the different aspects of negotiating technical standards for AI, while also encouraging the Indo-Pacific region to step up and get more involved.