Tomas Lamanauskas – Keynote 05 2024

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17 June 2024 | 11:30 - 13:30 EEST | Building 4, Event Hall | Video recordingConsolidated programme / Pre 12
17 June 2024 | 14:00 - 15:30 EEST | Auditorium | Video recording Consolidated programme / Pre 8
17 June 2024 | 17:30 - 18:30 EEST | Auditorium | Video recordingConsolidated programme / Opening plenary
19 June 2024 | 10:00 EEST | Auditorium | Video recording | TranscriptConsolidated programme / Keynote

Tomas Lamanauskas, Deputy Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Tomas Lamanauskas

Deputy Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Tomas Lamanauskas took office as Deputy Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on 1 January 2023.

In this key elected role, he assists the ITU Secretary-General with managing the organization, addressing the needs of ITU’s unique, global public-private membership, and pursuing key strategic objectives to promote inclusive digital transformation in line with sustainable development.

Mr Lamanauskas aims to forge impact-driv​en partnerships to advance global connectivity, help the information and communication technology industry cut emissions and address the climate crisis, and implement results-oriented management, with maximum transparency and accountability, to ready ITU for a dynamic future. As Deputy Secretary-General, he fosters close collaboration across varied radiocommunication, standardization, and development activities, reinforcing the collective role of ITU’s five elected officials as a single, highly effective team.


Video record

Pre 12:
Pre 8:
Opening Plenary:



Disclaimer: This is not an official record of the session. The DiploAI system automatically generates these resources from the audiovisual recording. Resources are presented in their original format, as provided by the AI (e.g. including any spelling mistakes). The accuracy of these resources cannot be guaranteed.

Transcripts and more session details were provided by the Geneva Internet Platform

Tomas Lamanauskas: So thank you very much. I think I’m getting familiar to this podium really well, you know, over this conference, and I’m really glad to be here. So indeed, ladies and gentlemen, Secretary General Pejčinović Burić, and all colleagues here. So indeed, it’s great to address you today and talk about artificial intelligence, which is also, this is a topic that has become the hot topic, probably the hottest topic in digital policy, if not the whole policy, over the last year and a half. And it’s really been raising a lot of very complex questions. So indeed, AI-powered disinformation, disinformation, deepfakes have become a daily reality. And it’s very unsettling, especially in the year when around half of the world’s population are going to polls. Meanwhile, a global study found that about 45% of AI systems show gender bias. Also fears from existential threat, something like, think of the Terminator, they’ve been on the rise, whether they’re real or not is also a lot of discussions there, but definitely a lot of people are fearing that. Indeed, we cannot overlook the increasing use of AI systems in the battlefield as well that probably inspire those fears. These risks need to be recognized and need to be addressed. But we cannot focus solely on downsides, otherwise we risk missing the enormous benefits that artificial intelligence can bring as well. So generative AI alone can add an estimated 4.4 trillion US dollars to the global economy. Other solutions, including AI, can help meet 70% of sustainable development goals targets, including improving people’s health, education, livelihoods, building better energy grids, as well as communities, protecting biodiversity, protecting land and protecting water resources, and strengthening climate action. Therefore, we need to harness the power of AI, but to do so in a safe and responsible manner. And of course, appropriate governance of AI is key to achieve that. I’m expecting to hear today quite a bit more about the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on AI, so I think the Secretary General will definitely cover that. But indeed, such frameworks as this convention are very important in this regard. I think I was told also that this convention was adopted on the 17th of May this year, which for us is a very special day, because it’s our birthday. So we see that’s very symbolic, as this year we celebrate the 159th one. So and again, it was, I think, a great presence for the world as well on this one. Of course, there are a number of other governance steps, including the European Union AI Act, which was finally recently fully adopted, US Executive Order on AI, G7 Hiroshima process, and the AI Safety Summit process, with the most recent one taking place in Seoul just around a month ago. As well, of course, AI regulatory measures in China and beyond. So the convenience of those different processes have gathered in ITU’s AI Governance Day on 29th of May in Geneva. And this day was convened as part of AI for Good Summit, where policymakers during that day came together with the private sector, academia leaders, to discuss how to shift from principles to practice in a governing of these technologies. Indeed, we were able to welcome 70 ministers, regulators, and high-level policy leaders, 25 UN representatives, and over 100 representatives of industry and academia for that governance for Inaugural Governance Day, with more than half of them from developing countries. And indeed, at that day, Minister from Bangladesh spoke for many when connoted their absence from the AI governance processes, many of them that were presented, and appreciated the opportunity for an inclusive dialogue on global governance, bringing everyone together. More generally, what did those policy, academia, industry leaders said they need from the AI and AI governance? They want to see a few things. First of all, responsible frameworks, so that tying AI closely to ethics and human rights. Second, they want to see interoperability, interoperability both of technology platforms, so they can work together, but also regulatory frameworks, so that regulatory frameworks don’t conflict, but they can work together around the world. They want to see international technical standards that underpin and enable implementation of these requirements. They also want to make sure that AI leverages digital divides, not creates new ones, such as AI divide. As well, they want to see global solidarity and resource sharing, to make sure that AI generally doesn’t leave anyone behind. These are very valuable insights that we took note of in developing governance frameworks and our activities in this regard. One thing I would like, as people say in tech industry, double click on, so this is AI divide. Indeed, being left out of AI resolution is one of the greatest risks for a lot of people and countries. Today, still, 2.6 billion people are unconnected, and with the vast majority being in the Global South. Actually, about two-thirds of the population, at least developed countries, remain offline. The large majority, around 95%, live in low- and middle-income countries, where modern data infrastructure, like co-location data centers and access to cloud computing, is most lacking. Clearly, being left out of the digital world makes it impossible to be part of AI revolution. The AI divide has many more faces, though. For example, concentration of innovation and patents, by some estimates, three countries in the world have around half of the AI-related presence. Placed in the value chain, some countries produce key components to enable AI, such as microchips and foundational models, and employ PhD-holding engineers, whereas others are sources of raw materials and data labelers. As well as policy divide, our recent AI Readiness Survey among eight U.S. member states demonstrated that the AI regulatory frameworks are still in the infancy. Still, 85% of the countries lack AI regulatory frameworks, and more than half of respondents said that they don’t even have AI strategy. To paraphrase the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who said at the ITU Council just a week ago, we must address these challenges so that AI never stands for advancing inequality. I kind of like that AI interpretation, and hopefully it will never be that way. What do we do to respond? And here I stand as ITU, but also I stand as a member of the United Nations system, which works together to address some of those challenges. And the United Nations system has been working to support the world in harnessing AI in a safe, responsible manner, and we’ve been doing that for much longer than Chacha Boutibineira. So the reason we launched UN system-wide paper on AI governance identifies over 50 instruments, either directly applicable to AI, around half of them, or applicable to very closely related areas, such as data and cybersecurity, that could apply to artificial intelligence. Some are overarching normative frameworks, such as our colleagues in UNESCO’s recommendation on ethics in AI governance, or AI ethics recommendation, with the implementation framework as well. Some of them are very specific and sector-specific. For example, World Health Organization’s recommendations on using AI in health applications, or UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute’s recommendations on using AI in criminal justice. So the paper that I mentioned was developed by the UN Interagency Working Group on Artificial Intelligence, which since 2020 has brought the UN system together to coordinate AI-related activities, and I have the pleasure of chairing this group together with Gabriela Ramos, Assistant DG for Social and Human Science of UNESCO. So this interagency group, internal UN group, complements the work of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Advisory Board on AI, which is an external experts group, where independent experts are analyzing the landscape and advising recommendations for international governance of these technologies. So we, as well, the UN system, have been proactive in developing AI platforms and tools to support the countries worldwide. I use latest report, which we launched again just a few weeks ago, on UN activities on AI, details over 400 projects across the UN system, actually 47 agencies, that leverage AI for various aspects of sustainable development. As well, ITU and other UN agencies have worked to set technical standards for AI in a range of vertical sectors. For example, we’ve been working very closely with WHO and WIPO on AI and health, Food and Agriculture Organization on how AI can boost agriculture, the World Meteorological Organization United Nations and Rampel Program on AI solutions for emergency response and disaster management, UN Economic Commission for Europe, UNEC, on intelligent transport systems, as well, and using NEI, just to name a few examples. Overall, we have around 200 technical standards on AI, which either have been published or being developed now. Our work strives to level the playing field across developed and developing countries a lot. So ITU’s challenges on AI and machine learning involves, for example, real-world assimilated data, technical webinars, mentoring, and hands-on sessions in which participating teams create, train, and deploy models mapped to AI standard specifications. AT competitions so far attracted more than 8,000 participants all across the world. And to ensure global inclusion, ITU provides a free, state-of-the-art compute platform to participants who lack adequate access of their own. At the heart of our AI efforts stands the AI for Good platform, which is powered by the ATU and supported by 40 United Nations partners. It features our annual summit, as well as an extensive year-round program of online events. And you can always join them. I think we have around 650 webinars so far. And continuous community engagement through our neural network platform brings together more than 26,000 participants. Again, everyone is very welcome to join us as well. AI for Good started seven years ago as a solution summit looking at how AI can help achieve sustainable development goals and has grown now into a critical platform for discussing responsible AI development. This year’s events, which we convened together with the Swiss Confederation, I think, thanks Thomas here in front, just took place three weeks ago, as I said, took place along our WSIS Plus 20 forum high-level event. And we attracted 8,000 participants, around 6,500 of them in person, and the remainder online. And this really was amazing, at least for organizers, to see a queue circling around the CCG, the one main conference center’s engineer, of the people who really wanted to be part of the conversation. Several new initiatives around this year aim to meet the AI challenges further. So first of all, we launched the world’s… First of all, we launched the Unified Framework for AI Standards Development with our partners, International Standardization Organization, ISO, International Electrotechnical Commission, IEC, with whom we already work together under the banner of World Standards Corporation. And again, we agreed to work together and ensure the coordinated development of standards. As well as ITU, with a diverse range of organizations, including Content Authenticity Initiative, Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity, ITF, IEC, ISO, and JPEG, agreed to set up a multi-stakeholder collaboration on global standards for AI watermarking, multimedia authenticity, and deepfake detection technologies, which was one of the biggest challenges today with AI. Our new AI for Good Impact Initiative will mobilize our diverse active stakeholder community to share knowledge and assist developing countries. At the summit as well, UNDP and UNESCO have joined forces to support countries… with AI readiness assessments. And I’m also thrilled about the new partnership with the United Nations University, UNU, to produce a flagship AI for Good report. It will help transform the knowledge and expertise within AI for Good platform into valuable resource for stakeholders. This is one more thing which I want to actually need to address before closing today. And it is AI’s environmental and climate impact. And may actually, and it’ll become the 12th month in the row of beating temperature records. Not the records we want to beat. And you see even in Lithuania, yesterday was probably the record heat day, you know? And of course, we see today, you know, there’s some sort of, you know, really big contrast to that. As forest fires, droughts and floods rise in frequency and severity, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions is impossible to ignore. In this context, is AI part of the problem? Or will it be part of the solution? Importantly also, digital technologies, of course, as AI, can help improve energy efficiency, optimize inventory management, enhance business operations and reduce emissions and e-waste for everyone. So research shows that AI can help mitigate around five to 10% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, roughly equivalent to the emissions of European Union. AI technologies can also bolster eco-solutions and help protect biodiversity. For example, AI systems can detect and analyze subtle ecosystem changes and bolster conservation efforts. AI also provides startling insights on climate and weather patterns, helping to understand the change we’re facing and provide early warnings of disasters. But there are challenges too. So the tech sector currently produces an estimated 1.7% greenhouse gas emissions over the world, actually at least 1.7%. And AI takes a growing share in that, as well as takes a growing share in energy consumption from the data centers that need to power AI. Training a single model uses more electricity than 100 U.S. homes consumes in an entire year, as well as an estimated in two years, data centers supporting skyrocketing AI use could consume twice as much energy as Japan as a whole does today. AI is thirsty too, with just a few, as thirsty as 10 prompts, consuming as much as a half a liter of water. So every time you send 10 prompts to charity, it’s like drinking one small bottle of water. So last year, we mobilized partners worldwide in a call for green digital action asking tech companies worldwide to embrace emission targets consistent with a 1.5 degree limit for global warming. We’re also asking the digital industry, including AI companies, to share their greenhouse gas emissions data openly. And green digital action partners are working to ensure the sustainability standards are implemented in actual practice. We’re encouraging the entire global tech industry to get on board, encourage everyone to support green digital action and help make AI part of a solution. So as UN Secretary General told the ITU Council last week, the pace of innovation is outpacing the capacity to regulate it. I believe though, that in this race, the pragmatism is key. The fast pace of tech development compared to the relative slowness of developing international laws and institutions, with one notable exception being presented here today, in particular the ones covering the whole world, only underscores the need to leverage existing instruments and governance structures, including those in the UN system. And I hope today already presented there is enough to leverage there. So ladies and gentlemen, let us work to harness the power of AI for all, to manage its risks, and to make sure that we do all of this together, all countries and all stakeholders, so that the age of AI becomes the age of prosperity, sustainability and inclusion, not the age of fear, anxiety and division. Thank you very much.