The role of standards in shaping a safe and sustainable AI-driven future

31 May 2024 09:20h - 09:25h

Table of contents

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Full session report

Seizo Onoe highlights ITU’s role in AI standardisation and global collaboration at summit

In a compelling address at a recent summit, Seizo Onoe underscored the pervasive and escalating influence of artificial intelligence (AI) across diverse sectors of society and the economy. He highlighted the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) pivotal role in the standardisation of AI technologies, noting the organisation’s accomplishment in publishing over 100 standards, with around 120 more in the pipeline, reflecting the dynamic nature of AI’s evolution.

Onoe illuminated the transformative impact of AI in streamlining network orchestration, multimedia coding, and enhancing the energy and cost efficiency of networks and data centres. Moreover, he underscored AI’s potential to drive progress in critical areas such as climate action, agriculture, disaster response, healthcare, and road safety, positioning AI as a catalyst for tackling global challenges.

The ITU’s commitment to fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration was a central theme in Onoe’s speech. He emphasised the significance of creating synergies among AI specialists, users, data proprietors, and experts from various fields to leverage AI for sustainable development. The AI for Good initiative was cited as a prime example of the ITU’s efforts to facilitate such connections, with a professional network exceeding 30,000 members.

Onoe also addressed the ITU’s dedication to capacity building, particularly in developing nations, to democratise the benefits of AI. He called for the development of AI systems that are not only efficient but also safe, secure, and trustworthy, with the goal of enhancing the quality of life globally.

He further expounded on the collaborative essence of standardisation work, which relies on mutual trust, understanding, and consensus. Such collaboration, Onoe contended, is crucial for encouraging innovation and investment by providing stakeholders with the confidence to continue exploring new frontiers.

Onoe acknowledged the rise of a novel AI innovation ecosystem and the indispensable role of standards in extending this ecosystem globally. He stressed that effective standards must emerge from a process that is inclusive, transparent, and in harmony with the collective aspiration for a better world. The ITU, alongside the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), provides a standardisation platform that ensures comprehensive participation and consensus-driven decisions.

A significant announcement at the summit was the introduction of unified frameworks for AI standards development, with a focus on formulating standards for verifying content authenticity and provenance. Onoe pointed to an upcoming workshop on AI watermarking as a crucial initiative towards realising these objectives.

In his concluding remarks, Onoe reflected on the historical role of standards in guiding societies through technological revolutions. He urged stakeholders from government, industry, academia, and civil society to actively engage in the ITU’s standardisation efforts, thereby influencing the integration of AI into our future. Onoe’s firm belief in the ITU’s leadership in AI for good was apparent, and he expressed appreciation for the ongoing support in these initiatives.

The speech offered a comprehensive overview of the strategic direction of the ITU and the wider AI community, emphasising the critical importance of standardisation in the responsible and equitable advancement of AI technologies. It also served as an invitation for all stakeholders to participate in the collaborative process of shaping the future of AI.

Session transcript

Seizo Onoe:
Thank you very much. Good morning, everyone, and very warm welcome to you all. Our discussions at this summit highlight that AI will come to influence almost every aspect of our societies and economies. That’s also highly evident in ITU standardization work. We have published over 100 standards on AI, around 120 under development, and this number always on rise. AI is now key to network orchestration, multimedia coding, and optimizing the energy and cost efficiency of networks and data centers. It’s also creating breakthrough in areas from climate action and agriculture to disaster response and health care and road safety. That’s why ITU is so invested in building bridges between different areas of expertise. These breakthroughs are driven in large part by new connections among AI specialists, AI users, data owners, and experts in domains where AI could contribute decisively to sustainable development. ITU is stimulating these connections with the support of our AI for Good initiative. Our diverse membership, partner UN agencies, and the over 30,000 professionals now part of our AI for Good neural network. And with some of our standards applied as a part of our global challenges, they are already helping to build AI capacity around the world. Most of our competitors are students from developing countries. We want safe and secure and trustworthy AI that leads to a better life for all. The spirit of collaboration and consensus that powers standardization work to exactly the spirit needed to succeed. Standards represent voluntary commitment to new ways of working together. They provide essential technical foundations for new industries to grow and establish industries to keep moving forward. It’s highly collaborative process. Working together on standards, we build mutual trust and understanding. We create the confidence to continue innovating and investing. A new innovation ecosystem emerged around AI. Standards will be essential in bringing this ecosystem to global scale. But to achieve this, standards need to be a result of process that is inclusive, transparent, and aligned with our ambition for a better world. ITU offers this assurance together with ISO and IEC. We offer a standardization platform where all participants’ voices are heard. And every step forward is determined by consensus decision. And as leading developers of international standards, we are uniquely positioned to guide coordinated action from standards developers and a growing range of stakeholders in standardization. Our cooperation helps to position everyone for success. And that’s exactly the aim of this collaboration we announced yesterday, to provide unified frameworks for AI standards development. Standards to verify content authenticity and provenance are one of the top priorities. And today’s workshop on AI watermarking will bring everyone together to ensure that we start out on the right foot. AI is changing the world, but we have deep experience to build on. Standards have helped us navigating revolution after revolution. With every breakthrough in science and technology, we have come together to develop the standards required to thrive in new frontiers. That’s what our standardization processes are built for. All of you, whether in government, industry, academia, or civil society, can drive our standardization work with your contributions and consensus decisions. We need to decide together how AI should factor into our future. This conviction anchors ITU’s leadership of AI for good. I thank you for your support. Thank you.


Seizo Onoe

Speech speed

103 words per minute

Speech length

641 words

Speech time

375 secs