Next week, leaders from government, civil society and the business community will gather in San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Week. This year’s theme – “creating a resilient and sustainable future for all” – could not be more timely, as new advances in artificial intelligence will revolutionize how the world addresses its biggest challenges, drive economic growth, and unleash new opportunities in APEC economies and around the world.
Google is a strong supporter of APEC and its mission of creating greater prosperity for the region by promoting growth and accelerating regional integration. Just last month, for example, we announced a partnership with the governments of Australia, the United States, Fiji, French Polynesia and the Pacific Island nations to build two new transpacific subsea cables to increase digital connectivity across the Pacific — and we’re excited to build on these partnerships at APEC next week.
Connectivity and sustainability in the Asia-Pacific
The partnership behind the two new subsea cables reinforced the promise of bringing AI to traditionally underrepresented communities and enabling everyone to access its incredible promise. This starts, of course, with connectivity. 2.6 billion people today are not connected to the internet, including over a billion people in the Asia-Pacific region.
State-of-the-art infrastructure like these subsea cables and the data centers that we’re building across the region are critical enablers of AI-led growth – notably, without governments having to bear the costs traditionally associated with major infrastructure projects.
It's critical that this infrastructure growth be undertaken responsibly with an eye to its energy usage and carbon footprint. That’s why we set a goal to operate our data centers and campuses on carbon-free energy, 24 hours a day, by 2030. And through Google.org, we’ve supported 13 local organizations via the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network's APAC Sustainability Seed Fund. These organizations are using AI and technology to develop sustainability solutions for vulnerable and underserved communities in Asia-Pacific.
AI’s economic and workforce promise
We also think AI has the ability to accelerate economic growth in APEC countries, and that governments and businesses can work together to make it happen. According to Goldman Sachs, AI could boost annual productivity growth over the next decade by 1.5%, and increase annual global GDP by 7% longer term. The impact of such super-charged growth on human welfare is enormous – potentially lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty and improving billions of lives.
At the same time, governments and industry will need to work together to help workers gain new skills, businesses to adapt, and schools to use AI for personalized learning. We’re committed to helping people prepare for in-demand jobs through skilling and training. We’ve added free online courses on generative AI for both technical and non-technical audiences. This year alone, we’ve given over 100,000 Google Career Certificate scholarships to expand the cyber workforce in the Asia-Pacific region. Google.org also provided $15 million to The Asia Foundation to launch the APAC Cyber Security Fund to bolster cyber capabilities of 300,000 underserved small businesses, nonprofits and social enterprises. And through our Digital Futures Project, we’re supporting academics and think tanks around the world researching AI’s impact on the economy and future of work.
Consistent regulatory approach
The issue that we most frequently get asked by most governments in the APEC region is how to ensure their economies are at the forefront of the AI revolution and don’t get left behind. The answer: sound public policy. Governments are rightly thinking about AI governance, and making progress on global frameworks to mitigate potential risks. To fully harness the AI opportunity, a coordinated, risk-based and globally interoperable approach to regulation is key. Regulatory fragmentation makes it more difficult for businesses of all sizes to provide cross-border services and technologies, and mostly hurts small businesses who have fewer resources to comply with a web of conflicting regulations.
APEC has traditionally played a catalytic role in fostering international trade norms, and is well-positioned to drive a consistent approach to governing cross-border technologies like AI. For example, APEC could convene governments to discuss how they can make AI more accessible with policies and investments to spur research and development, develop talent, and adopt cloud infrastructure and compute capacity. And it could promote consistent legal and regulatory frameworks that spur innovation and enable trusted cross-border data flows.
We look forward to engaging with governments, businesses and civil society from the APEC economies to make the most of AI’s potential to solve big challenges, create more opportunities for more people, and drive unprecedented growth.