Students Across the Asia Pacific Tackle Artificial Intelligence
October 10, 2018

Winners of the APRU-The New York Times Asia-Pacific Student Case Competition on Artificial Intelligence have been announced.

Students from The University of Auckland are winners of the APRU – The New York Times Student Case Competition. The students, Marcus Wong (Commerce & Engineering), Jaffar Al-Shammery Bui (Economics, Public Health, Chinese Language), and Tomu Ozawa (Computer Science) made policy recommendations to policymakers of New Zealand to:

1) Implement an AI-Score metric to guide enterprise taxation;
2) Build an infrastructure of a Universal Basic Income system; and
3) Facilitate communication streams between regulators, researchers, and business.

The first-runner up team comprises final-year Law students Samuel Lim Tien Sern and Marissa Chok Kay-Min of National University of Singapore. The second-runner up team is Zack Lim Zhi Xun and Nigel Tan Ghuan Ming of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

An excerpt from the winning entry was published in the International Edition of The New York Times on October 9, 2018. The winners have also received a trophy, a profiled article in an online booklet of winning entries, and The New York Times gifts. Upon learning of their winning entry, The University of Auckland students said, “A big thanks to The New York Times, the judging panel and APRU – we’re stoked to have won this!”

Students from the National University of Singapore (NUS), who won first-runner up, said, “We are honoured to receive this award. Looking forward, we hope that competitions like these will encourage greater discussion in this growing field, especially as Singapore harnesses big data for its Smart Nation initiative.”

The NTU students who were the second-runner up team were pleasantly surprised and were very happy with the news. They said, “We entered this competition without any expectations, and with a mind to learn about the subject and challenge our perspectives. This award is a form of validation for us and it reaffirms our weeks of research and effort.”

As the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence promises social, economic, and environmental benefits—governments, businesses and researchers are focused on the risks and ways to mitigate them. The 2018 APRU-The New York Times Asia-Pacific Student Case Competition asked students to write a policy brief for a political leader or public official on the best ways to ensure that social goals are built into AI research and development, and that the benefits of AI are shared equitably for sustainable development, demonstrating how risks might be mitigated. The University of Auckland students said, “As historical leaders in the social and environmental fields, we believe New Zealand is in a strong position to influence the conversation around AI.”

Also expressing the need for greater engagement in shaping the future of AI, the NUS students said, “Since Artificial Intelligence has serious implications for ethics, economics, law, and policy, we believe that the conversation cannot be limited to those in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields. On the contrary, the conversation needs to include voices from the humanities.”

The NTU students observed that Singapore is well-positioned for AI’s growth, but there is a need to begin preparing for potential disruptions without hampering innovation. They said, “As AI’s sophistication and impact grow beyond the scope of existing policies, legal and ethical concerns such as data bias, discrimination and privacy become increasingly critical.”

The 2018 APRU-The New York Times Student Case Competition on Artificial Intelligence attracted entries from 114 students from 24 universities in 12 economies. The results were announced by Helena Phua, Executive Vice President, Asia Pacific, The New York Times, and Christopher Tremewan, APRU Secretary General, at an awards ceremony and panel discussion during the APRU Senior International Leaders’ Meeting, “AI For Good: Advancing Ethical, Transparent, and Equitable Strategies for AI” at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology on October 9, 2018.

The panel at this celebratory event featured, Christine Loh, HKUST, Division of Environment and Sustainability, Former Under Secretary for the Environment; Bárbara Navarro, Director, Public Policy, Policy Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific, Google; and Chong-Fuk Lau, Professor and Division Head, Philosophy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The panel, which was moderated by Jeff Riedinger, Vice Provost for Global Affairs at the University of Washington—the winning institution of the 2017 APRU-The New York Times Asia-Pacific Student Case Competition focused on the Pacific Ocean—discussed the promises of AI and where its solutions lay with respect to environmental sustainability, gender equity, representation of marginalized communities in data, civil rights and surveillance.

Chris Tremewan, APRU Secretary General, says, “We, at APRU, believe it is our responsibility to engage our societies in understanding and addressing the ways AI will impact social equity in its many forms (e.g. race, gender, class, religion), environmental sustainability and public accountability for effective forms of governance. We are most grateful to The New York Times for its partnership and for elevating the platform for discussion and leadership on this topic that affects us all.”

short video featuring the winning team is available as well as a booklet of the top-ten winning entries.