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| AI regulation in Latin America: Balancing global trends with local realities Related reading: Garante alleges OpenAI's ChatGPT violated GDPR



Artificial intelligence presents a unique confluence of opportunities and challenges, particularly for Latin America. This region, with its diverse cultural, political and socioeconomic landscape, stands at the forefront of a technological revolution that promises to reshape industries, governance and societal norms. However, navigating this transformative wave requires a tailored approach to AI regulation, one that harmoniously blends global trends with the distinct realities of Latin American countries.

The region's participation in global AI regulation debates is not merely a matter of following trends but of asserting its voice to shape ethical and democratic AI use globally. As countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico, to mention a few, chart their national AI strategies, the need to transition from passive participation to active influence becomes clear.

The Santiago Declaration, forged in October in Chile, during a crucial AI summit of high-level authorities from across Latin America and the Caribbean, signals a significant organizational shift in the region. The declaration underscores a growing commitment to not only participate in, but to also actively influence, the global dialogue on AI. More importantly, it highlights a concerted effort from Latin American and Caribbean countries to develop governance and regulatory frameworks tailored to the unique needs and context of the region.

A key outcome of this summit is the proposal to establish an intergovernmental Council on Artificial Intelligence for Latin America and the Caribbean. This initiative, aligned with UNESCO's Recommendation on the Ethics of AI, aims to reinforce regional capabilities in AI, fostering an environment where ethical considerations and human rights are at the forefront of AI development and implementation.

In terms of regulation, many Latin American countries are proactively moving toward legislative action. Numerous bills have been introduced in respective parliaments and legislative bodies, reflecting a growing awareness and intent to establish a legal framework governing AI. These legislative efforts demonstrate the region's commitment to planning its AI future, even as it deals with unique socioeconomic, educational and political challenges.

Those regional-specific challenges are central to Latin America's approach to AI regulation. As highlighted by the Latin American Artificial Intelligence Index, there is an urgent need in the region to bolster tech-savvy institutions, reskill the workforce, develop technological infrastructure, bridge digital literacy gaps, and foster innovation and research and development. Tackling these existing shortcomings is as crucial as establishing comprehensive AI regulations. Thus, it is imperative for countries to prioritize addressing these foundational AI enablers, either before or concurrently with the crafting of detailed regulations.

As Latin America continues to integrate AI technologies into its social and economic fabric, the need for a balanced and tailored regulatory framework becomes increasingly apparent. The region's integration into the international tech landscape, coupled with its dependence on foreign investment and technologies, highlights the need for a regulatory approach that is adaptable to both global standards and local realities. This necessity is further accentuated by the region's bureaucratic and economic constraints.

Most countries in Latin America are drawing inspiration for their AI bills from the EU AI Act. However, the suitability of the EU legislation as a model for Latin America warrants careful consideration. The EU's framework is dictated by its specific digital regulatory experience, maturity and institutional capacity, which may not directly correspond with realities in Latin American countries. Therefore, while the EU's approach offers valuable insights, Latin America must adapt and refine these ideas to fit its own regulatory, economic and technological landscape.

One promising avenue for Latin America in the realm of AI regulation is the exploration of experimental regulatory mechanisms, particularly regulatory sandboxes and prototypes. These innovative and flexible approaches provide a practical platform for testing AI applications in real-world scenarios. By doing so, they allow for risk management and learning in a controlled environment. Such mechanisms are especially beneficial in a field as dynamic and rapidly evolving as AI, enabling regulators and innovators to collaborate, adapt and refine AI applications before they are fully integrated into society. Chile and Colombia are cases of countries in the region that are implementing these mechanisms with apparent success.

In addition to these experimental methods, aligning with international standards is crucial for ensuring global compatibility and best practices in AI deployment. Standards set by organizations like the International Organization for Standardization and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology play a pivotal role in this by providing well-established guidelines and benchmarks that help in maintaining consistency, safety and efficiency in AI technologies across different regions and industries. By adhering to these standards, Latin American countries can ensure that their AI technologies are globally compatible. Furthermore, these standards serve as a reference point for best practices, helping to guide the ethical, responsible and effective development and use of AI.

Crucially, any AI regulatory strategy in the region must be underpinned by a strong commitment to human rights, transparency and accountability. This is essential not only for ethical considerations but also to prevent the inadvertent legitimization of authoritarian national regulations. AI policies should be designed to safeguard fundamental freedoms and democratic values, ensuring the technology serves individuals without compromising their rights and liberties.

The journey to effective AI regulation in Latin America is a complex, but necessary, undertaking. By embracing innovative regulatory models, aligning with international standards and steadfastly upholding human rights and democratic principles, Latin America can harness the full potential of AI. This balanced approach will not only catalyze technological advancement and economic growth but also ensure that AI development in the region is responsible, ethical and inclusive.

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