Caricom region must develop regulations to address AI – Pres Ali

…says could be disastrous if member states fail to act
…as regional single window system, digitisation of govt services also in progress

By Jarryl Bryan

President Dr Irfaan Ali on Sunday made an impassioned call for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) develop regulations for the governing Artificial Intelligence (AI), which is growing in prominence around the world with each passing day.
The Head of State, who is also Chairman of Caricom, made this call during the opening of the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government. The president pointed out that it would be a disaster for the region if member states fail to act.
“I believe the region must work immediately on developing regulations to govern AI and the use of AI within this region. We must have a common rule-based system, regulations and legislation, to deal with AI. It is going to be disastrous if we do not manage this now and have the infrastructure established to manage this now.”
“Member states are currently working on the digitization of government services, to allow for the seamless transactions, movement of goods and services and the reduction of bureaucracy in government. We need to develop urgently, a digital strategy. An AI strategy for the region,” the President said.
According to President Ali, this digital platform must be a common one that would see all the countries in Caricom sharing a single system and working together. He noted that to do otherwise would not advance regional integration.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

Already, countries around the world have been moving to set up legislation to govern AI. In the European Union (EU), laws were approved only this month that will regulate AI based on risk assessments of the different models. AI that carries ‘unacceptable risk’ will be banned outright, while AI at the lower end of the risk spectrum will see developers having to disclose to users whenever any content, they interact with is AI generated.
Meanwhile in the US, work continues at both the federal and state level to bring about laws to regulate AI. In California, for instance, efforts are being taken to assess the risk of deepfake technology- AI technology that can manipulate video to mimic real persons-to the government systems.
Earlier this month, it was uncovered that a deepfake AI scam was used to trick a financial officer at a multi-national firm in Hong Kong into paying out US$25 Million of the company’s money. According to authorities in Hong Kong, the scammers used deepfake technology to pose as the financial officer’s boss on a video conference call, which led to him approving the payout… only to later discover that he had been talking to fake AI recreations.

Meanwhile, President Ali also spoke about ongoing regional efforts to digitize government services and set up a single window system. It would follow Guyana’s own efforts towards implementing a single window system in government agencies.
“We will have a single window, operating in all the countries. We’re starting with Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago as the test. And only announcing that, we are already getting tremendous private sector interest to take this in the wider region. And this will be an important development in our region,” President Ali said.
“In the single window operation that we are looking to achieve, we want when a container is on that ferry or on that ship from Guyana, to go to another destination in the region, it must be pre-cleared. Through a rule-based system. Because we will have customs of everyone, sharing offices in the region. So, ease of doing business, improved competitiveness and reduced delays. And all of this are cost saving measures for the private sector in our region.”
The single window process is a strategy implemented by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government to integrate different agencies’ approach to services, and efficiency, and to significantly reduce the processing time for planning and building permission.
In December 2022, a $202 million contract was signed with Global Services – a Guyanese-led consortium with global experience – to make the issuance of planning and building permits hassle-free. The company was tasked with providing a server and network infrastructure; security solutions; and hardware and software maintenance and repairs.
And last year, the National Assembly passed the Planning and Development Single Window System. The legislation paved the way for, among other things, standardized application forms and checklists, as well as minimizing the time for completing a transaction in, for instance, the construction sector.
Further, the electrical portal will enable investors to submit planning and building permits and check the status from anywhere around the globe. This new mechanism forms part of the Government’s attempt to increase the ease of doing business and foster a business-friendly environment. (G3)