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Strengthening Indo-Pacific techdiplomacy in critical technologies

Critical technologies play a defining role in our lives. The future of work, nature of our economy and geopolitical relations will be shaped by critical technologies. At the heart of how these technologies are developed and used are technical standards.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI), in collaboration with India's Centre for Internet and Society, announces a new project focused on techdiplomacy and standards settings in Artificial Intelligence in the Indo-Pacific. This project is supported by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, under the Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership (AICCTP). More information about AICCTP can be found at https://www.internationalcybertech.gov.au/.

While technical in nature, standards inherently reflect the values of those involved in their development. Technologies that involve Artificial Intelligence are now being applied to a wide a variety of fields. As potential consequences for human, economic and national security become foreseeable, concerns have emerged about the diversity of stakeholders who drive these standards and their agendas.

This is why the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and the Centre for Internet & Society (India) have partnered to produce a ‘techdiplomacy guide’ on negotiating technical standards in Artificial Intelligence – a crucial but general-purpose technology which will impact all aspects of livelihood, industry and warfare.

The communities who develop technical standards have become sites of contestation. We see standards for AI being advocated though forums such as the Quad, the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, through state-led initiatives like ‘China Standards 2035’ as well as individual tech companies. These complement or compete with conventional multilateral standards organisations such as International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

We aim to unpack the various processes for international standards-setting in AI and identify the main stakeholders driving these initiatives along with who would bear the responsibility for ensuring that AI technology standards are developed responsibly, bearing in mind the key strategic priorities of stakeholders in the Indo-Pacific.. We will also explore requirements in terms of diverse representation - expertise, gender and nationality - and offer learning products to policy makers and technical delegates alike to enable Australian and Indian delegates to serve as ambassadors for our respective nations.

The Project

India and Australia are uniquely positioned to shape a democratic, inclusive and transparent environment for setting technical standards, and ensure adequate representation of the broader Indo-Pacific community.

With this project, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) will unpack the processes of international standards-setting and the main ‘drivers of change’ who should ensure AI technologies are developed and deployed in a responsible manner.

Anticipated outcome

At the end of this project, Australian and Indian stakeholders will have access to a variety of background and learning resources. This includes information on:

  • The most important standards-setting initiatives for AI;
  • Principles and processes of Australia’s and India’s techdiplomacy;
  • Processes of techdiplomacy; and
  • Opportunity areas for Australia and India to strengthen their engagement in techdiplomacy.

Target audience

The target audience includes:

  • Policymakers in India, Australia and the Indo-Pacific, in particular those who follow or participate in international forums;
  • Technical delegates in the critical technology industry; and
  • Relevant private sector participants in standards-setting initiatives.

Updated: 18 Oct 2022