Empowering Asia’s citizens: The generative AI opportunity for government


So far, about 30,000 students a month are using the solution, which is designed to assist Taiwan in its goal to become bilingual in Chinese and English by 2030. “We want to help our students quickly enhance their English skills to compete with other countries,” says Howard Hao-Jan Chen, an English professor at National Taiwan Normal University.

Early concerns about generative AI in education centered around fears students would cheat or miss out on key steps in their learning. However, Microsoft’s Bartley Johns cites the successful incorporation of calculators into math teaching as evidence that learning and assessment methods adapt. “There are lots of positive opportunities here, and I haven’t spoken to anyone in education in Asia who thinks generative AI won’t be used in the universities and schools over the longer term,” he says.

What next for generative AI?

These are early days in the development of generative AI. Regulation is nascent across Asia. However, with great power comes community obligation. It is vital the public sector develops and deploys generative AI responsibly, in ways that protect privacy and data security and foster citizen trust.

The first question for governments is to what extent do existing laws and regulations apply. The importance of AI operating within legal guardrails was addressed by Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party in a recent AI national strategy white paper, while the Officer of the Privacy Commissioner in New Zealand recently published helpful guidance about how to comply with privacy law when using generative AI. Novel issues might include a requirement for the public sector to provide basic transparency about the AI models that it relies on. Partnering with trusted cloud service providers allows governments to leverage existing privacy and security architectures rather than start from scratch.

Inclusion is the second key challenge for a technology billed as benefiting everyone in the world—one that invites a natural, conversational interaction when the nearest government service center may be hundreds of miles away. This starts by extending mobile broadband connectivity, an area where governments in Asia have made progress but wide disparities between urban and rural areas remain. Use of personal devices also needs to be democratized and expanded.

Nonetheless, Microsoft’s Bartley Johns is optimistic about the transformative potential of generative AI as it is placed in millions, and ultimately billions, of hands. “There is a real leapfrog opportunity here, and that’s what we’re hearing from governments across Asia,” he says. “The underlying technologies are here today.”

This content was produced by Microsoft. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.



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