The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, Girish Chandra Murmu, on March 13 called for initiatives to develop audit frameworks and granular checklists on the two emerging sectors of artificial intelligence and “blue economy”.
He said that while AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, it has 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 the citizens and the country through targeted and timely intervention,” Mr. Murmu said during the inaugural speech at the Higher Institutions of Three-Day-20 Public Auditing (SAI20) Engagement Group Delegates Meeting.
However, he said, AI systems also involved issues of privacy, bias and discrimination and there was insufficient understanding of AI algorithms among the general public. “These problems are complex and interconnected, highlighting the need for responsible AI practices, where fairness of solutions is ensured,” Murmu said.
The CAG – in the context of data-driven audits – uses AI and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies, especially for environmental and ecological studies. “We are now increasingly using GIS, drone visualization, geolocation, and linking with machine learning to audit areas such as mining, coastal protection, urban planning, and more,” said he declared.
Stating that the cornerstone of “responsible AI” was ethics, he said it involves safety and trustworthiness, inclusiveness and non-discrimination, equality, privacy and security, protection and reinforcement of positive human values.
Mr. Murmu said the data should be in a standard format for all computer applications, especially government applications. “…technology development in India has happened organically over the past two or three decades. Computer applications were designed based on the technologies then available and they did not envisage integration with other IT applications. Not integrating an audit module into government IT applications is the simplest of these examples,” he said, speaking of the challenge.
In this regard, at the recent meeting of the heads of the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization organized in Lucknow by the CAG, there was a consensus that the governments should work on data standardization. The Indian government has put in place a comprehensive “National AI Strategy”.
He said SAIs should also imbibe a data culture, adding: “Our path to this fast-spreading cutting-edge technology is two-fold: adopting AI capabilities in auditing and AI system audit in government – AI enables automation of redundant audit activity, reduced reliance on sample testing, identification of high-risk transactions and fraud detection “, did he declare.
Besides AI, “blue economy” is a priority area during the meeting. Mr. Murmu said it encompasses a range 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 more than 58.5 million people worldwide, of which approximately 21% are women. About 600 million people depend at least somewhat on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods,” he said.
Given its importance, the United Nations has declared the decade 2021-2030 as the decade of “ocean science for sustainable development”.
“Unplanned and unregulated development in coastal areas must be highlighted in the audit…governments must be shown with evidence of the importance of ensuring that the livelihoods of people living in these areas are not negatively affected,” Murmu said.
The CAG has released a first-ever National Compendium of State Mineral and Energy Resource Asset Accounts, which attempts to create an account for mineral resource stocks, mapping their geographic distribution. “…we have also completed a performance audit report on the Coastal Ecosystems Conversation…” he said.
The SAIs of India, Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, South Korea, Oman, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, plus two representatives of the World Bank, participate in the event.