The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, Girish Chandra Murmu, on March 13 called for initiatives to develop auditing frameworks and granular checklists on the two emerging sectors of Artificial Intelligence and “Blue Economy”.
He said although AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, it had also raised concerns related to privacy, transparency, and fairness.
“It (AI) has the potential to lead socio-economic growth and can be used to benefit citizens and the country through targeted and timely intervention,” said Mr. Murmu during the inaugural address at the three-day Supreme Audit Institutions-20 (SAI20) Engagement Group delegates’ meet.
However, he said, AI systems also involved issues of privacy, bias, and discrimination and there was an inadequate understanding of AI algorithms among the general public. “These problems are complex and interconnected, highlighting the need for responsible AI practices, where the fairness of solutions is ensured,” said Mr. Murmu.
The CAG — as part of data-driven audits — has been using AI and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies, particularly for environment and ecology studies. “We are now increasingly using GIS, drone visualization, geotagging and linking it with Machine Learning to audit areas such as mining, coastal protection, urban planning, etc,” he said.
Stating that the cornerstone of “responsible AI” was ethics, he said it entailed safety and reliability, inclusivity and non-discrimination, equality, privacy and security, protection and reinforcement of positive human values.
Mr. Murmu said data should be in a standard format across IT applications, especially government applications. “…technological development in India has happened organically over the last two-three decades. IT applications were designed based on then-available technologies and they did not envisage integration with other IT applications. Not incorporating an audit module in government IT applications is the simplest of such examples,” he said, talking about the challenge involved.
In this regard, at the recent CAG-hosted Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) Leaders’ meeting in Lucknow, a consensus emerged that governments should work on data standardisation. The Indian Government has brought out a comprehensive “National Strategy for AI”.
He said the SAIs too should imbibe a data culture, adding: “Our path in respect of this fast-spreading frontier technology is two-fold: adopting AI capabilities in audit and auditing AI system in government — AI enables automation of redundant audit activity, reduced reliance on sample testing, identification of high-risk transactions and enabling fraud detection,” he said.
Apart from AI, “Blue Economy” is a priority area at the meet. Mr. Murmu said it encompassed a spectrum of policy and operational dimensions aimed at conserving marine and freshwater environments while promoting their sustainable use.
“Roughly, 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 km of the coast. Primary fish farming alone employs globally over 58.5 million people, of whom about 21% are women. Around 600 million people rely at least somewhat on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihood,” he said.
Given its importance, the United Nations has declared the decade 2021-2030 as the decade of “Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”.
“The unplanned and unregulated development in the coastal areas have to be highlighted in the audit…governments have to be shown with evidence the importance of ensuring that the livelihoods of the people living in these areas is not affected adversely,” said Mr. Murmu.
The CAG has released a first-ever nationwide Compendium of Asset Accounts on Mineral and Energy Resources in States, which attempts to create an account for the stocks of mineral resources, mapping their geographical spread. “…we have also completed a Performance Audit Report on Conversation of Coastal Ecosystems…,” he said.
The SAIs from India, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, and the United Arab Emirates, besides two World Bank representatives, are participating in the event.