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Why Uzbekistan needs an AI policy?

Uzbekistan is one the first countries in Central Asia which is enthusiastically moving towards digitalization. Different ministries are promoting digitalization in the areas of telecommunication, information technology, government and foreign investments. The government has approved “Smart city” concept: implementation of technology solutions in education, medicine, housing and communal services and territorial management.

The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan has approved the concept of implementation of “Smart city” technologies with an exclusive decree. The goal of the document is “creation of favorable conditions for improving the standard of living, solutions of citizens’ issues, improving of social infrastructure and regional development”. The decree mentions that the country is currently at initial stages of implementation of “Smart city” technologies – pilot projects regarding the systems “Safe city”, “Smart enumerators”, “Smart transportation” and “Smart medicine” are realized in Tashkent.

The main issue preventing implementation of such technologies – poor infrastructure of ICT and obsolescence of city infrastructure, requiring modernization of telecommunication networks and capital investment in reconstruction. The method for resolving such issues, in accordance with world practice is attraction of private sector in resolving socially significant challenges and establishment of PPP.

Recent presidential decrees are tackling the issues related to Blockchain Mining and regulation of Cryptocurrency. Moreover, government is enthusiastically supporting IT startups through IT parks and innovation centers.

However, there can be challenge for the Ministry of Justice to correlate with the digitalization projects of the government. New Civil Code should spread its tentacles on the all the core areas of private and public laws. In Uzbekistan, the New Civil Code requires market lead reforms to meet the demands of 21st century model government as well as to make it relevant with the upcoming wave of digitalization in the country.

According to the decree of the President of Uzbekistan “On measures to improve the civil legislation of the Republic of Uzbekistan” which was adopted on April 5, Uzbekistan has begun the preparation of a new version of the Civil Code. The new edition of the Civil Code is expected to be developed before April 1, 2020.  The task is to optimize the organizational and legal forms of legal entities, to increase the efficiency of corporate governance and supplement the Code with new types of contracts, etc. The Civil Code is a key regulatory act for economic relations. The current edition was adopted in 1995-1996. The main directions of the upcoming changes are indicated in the “Concept of Improving Civil Legislation”. This document says, “The analysis of economic reforms implementation revealed significant shortcomings and gaps that negatively affect further market reforms, harm favorable investment climate and business environment, hinder improvement the country’s position in international ratings,”.

These are improvement of existing and introduction of new principles of civil legal relations, revision of the old and introduction of new concepts (terms), improvement of measures and means aimed at ensuring fair and proper implementation of civil rights and discharge of duties, optimization of organizational and legal forms and much more.

The immediate and first step for Uzbekistan is to officially consider the question of drafting an Artificial Intelligence Policy for the country. This should be done by involving stakeholders from all the domains. It should be kept on the highest strategic priority of the political and legal strategy of the country.

AI Policy will provide immediate guidelines to industry and other actors directly interacting with the economy. This policy should highlight the important tasks and goals to be achieved in near future. Uzbekistan has already introduced the concept of “Smart” City, which can be further extended to “Smart Products”. Neighboring China’s AI Policy sheds a light on these smart products which include networked vehicles, intelligent service robots, and video image identification systems. This is very crucial for achieving breakthroughs in “core foundations” like neural network chips; fostering the development of “intelligent manufacturing”; and building a public support system, for instance, by accelerating the development of an “intelligent next-generation internet”.

One important step can be the introduction of new legal personalities such as non-human legal personalities or the concept of “digital personhood” in the new Civil Code. This will accommodate not only the demands of 5G Technology and the “Internet of Things” but will help in incorporating the digitalization in overall legal system.

The issue is not only related to the AI development,  “Internet of Things” or Regulations for Big Data, but the concern of drafting an AI Policy is related to the whole subject matter concerning the technology, innovation and economy in general.

Further steps can include the introduction of more technology-blended laws or to incorporate AI regulations in existing laws. For example, including the regulations for “Autonomous output of AIs” in the Intellectual property laws of the country.

It can be a challenge for Uzbek legal scientists to draft an AI policy and to incorporate digitalization in the legislation for making it more relevant to the fourth industrial revolution. Whereas, world in looking towards the upcoming changes in Uzbekistan and question remains open, “Is Uzbekistan ready to take lead in the Central Asian region to introduce an AI Policy or not?” A glocalized (by using global methodologies in local context) AI Policy can keep innovative economy sustainable in Uzbekistan.

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Ammar Younas

Ammar Younas is currently employed with Westminster International University in Tashkent, Uzbekistan as a Senior Lecturer in Commercial Law. He studied Chinese Law as Chinese Government Scholar at Tsinghua University School of Law in Beijing, China. He also holds degrees in Medicine, Jurisprudence, Finance, Political Marketing, International and Comparative Politics and Human Rights from Kyrgyzstan, Italy, and Lebanon. Ammar is interested in Legal Philosophy, Constitutional Law, Human Rights, Tech Law, and Artificial Intelligence.

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