G20 is a strategic multilateral platform connecting the world’s major developed and emerging economies. The G20 holds a strategic role in securing future global economic growth and prosperity. Together, the G20 members represent more than 80 percent of worlds’ GDP, 75 percent of international trade and 67 percent of worlds’ population.
The SAI 20 Engagement Group, a group of Supreme Audit Institutions of G20 member countries, works towards strengthening governance institutions to respond with improved, agile and reliable methods to the emerging problems of our times as well as to enable governments to deliver a good quality of life to citizens. The establishment of this engagement group has led to the creation of an ecosystem where the SAIs coordinate and articulate strategies through multi-stakeholder engagements to deliver as partners in governance through positive and rigorous people-centric policies while also advancing greater transparency and accountability.
With India's assumption of the G20 presidency on 1st December 2022, CAG of India i.e. SAI India shall take the chairmanship of SAI20. SAI India shall remain dedicated to the recognition of Independence, Transparency, Accountability, Collaboration, and Continuity as the vital pillars of this engagement group. Under the guiding philosophy for India’s presidency of G20 i.e. VasudhaivaKutumbkam, which sees the world as “One Earth, One Family, and One Future”, Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) of India is proposing the collaboration of G20 SAIs on two priority areas of Blue Economy and Responsible Artificial Intelligence.
Blue Economy is an economic system that encompasses a spectrum of policy and operational dimensions aimed at conserving marine and freshwater environments while promoting their sustainable use, producing food and energy, supporting livelihoods and act as a driver for economic advancement and welfare.Blue Economy takes forward the concept of LiFE i.e. Lifestyle for Environment introduced by India in the COP26 Glasgow summit which emphasises the need for ‘mindful and deliberate utilisation’ instead of mindless and wasteful consumptionin order to sustain and breathe new life into the marine and freshwater environments.
As a priority area, it serves to bring the focus of SAIs in achievement of the UN 2030 agenda, particularly (but not exclusively), Goal 14 viz., Life Below Water. The objective is to collaborate on auditing policies and programs that influences the Blue Economy in a way that is impactful and progressive with an appreciation of its strong interlinkages that span communities, sectors as well as nations. Considering the fact that fishery, for the most part, is the occupation of economically vulnerable sections also compels SAIs to exercise their oversight more effectively in the interest of greater inclusiveness in society and their immediate relevance to the people.
C&AG of India shall strive to formulate consensual and widely applicable standards or guidelines that shall enable SAIs to evaluate and guide, within their respective mandates, the development and effective implementation of policies and programs which balance sustainability on the one hand with economic progress and welfare on the other. We seek to develop a body of research, best-practice compilations, tool-kits, or audit guidelines as well as foster possible modalities for closer collaboration between SAIs as also with other stakeholder communities.
The focus on the second priority area i.e., responsible AI is in in sync with the fast-snowballing role that Artificial Intelligence systems are playing in the lives of citizens while also appreciating its deeply disruptive potential. As with Blue Economy, the problems related to responsible AI are topical, multidimensional and interdependent. The concerns span issues of legality, ethicality as well as the philosophical choices of human versus non-human agency. Apart from concerns of privacy, AI poses issues of biases and discrimination on account of lack of comprehensibility of the algorithms to the common man, as the systems progressively auto-evolve.
There has been extensive recognition and strong advocacy to generate awareness on the use of Responsible Artificial Intelligence across governments, businesses and civil society organizations. During the G20 Ministerial Statement on Trade and Digital Economy in June 2019, and as per recommendations on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence by UNESCO in November 2021, a beginning has been made towards articulating that a digital society must be built on trust among all stakeholders.
While the application of AI continues to encompass more and more areas of our lives, it poses challenges of complexity to both governments as well as SAIs in its understanding, regulation and auditability to ensure its responsible use. It is important for SAIs to develop responsive capabilities to address the core questions in use of AI systems to position themselves essentially as an agent of effective oversight and provide evidencebased support in comprehensive policy formulations and implementation.
C&AG of India's endeavor shall be to generate broad consensus on the nature and extent of interventions that SAIs can exercise towards promoting the values of responsible AI while staying within their respective mandates. We shall attempt to jointly develop audit support literature as well as explore ways in which the G20 SAIs can help each other through mutual capacity building and experience sharing. The general philosophy that shall guide our direction shall be the necessity to regulate the development and use of AI systems in a way that enables the full realization of its potentially life-changing benefits while at the same time keeping in check its potential for deliberate or even accidental misuse.
Taking forward the highly pertinent priority areas, C&AG of India as the chair of SAI20, intends to undertake strong, successful and widely participative collaboration of G20 SAIs for an efficacious and unmatched G20 presidency.
(The author is C&AG of India)