Shenzhen, China’s Silicon Valley, plans to turbocharge local AI development with first-of-a-kind regulations

·3-min read

China’s tech hub Shenzhen plans to turbocharge the development of artificial intelligence (AI) in the city, with supporting policies that include fast-tracking the commercialisation of AI products and providing better access to public data.

A draft document outlining the plan – China’s first instance of local regulations drawn up for the AI sector – was submitted to the Shenzhen’s People’s Congress for review on Monday, according to a statement on its website.

“Formulation of the draft regulations will not only promote the AI industry in Shenzhen, but also play a leading role as a pilot project in the exploration of AI legislation on a national level,” the congress said in the statement.

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The new regulations would also require local government departments and state-owned companies to take the lead in using AI products and services and to prioritise their use in government procurement, a move intended to boost the implementation of AI technology in a wider range of applications.

To facilitate AI’s appetite for large amounts of data, Shenzhen also vowed to give the industry better access to public data provided it complies with laws and keeps risks at a manageable level.

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The document also singled out healthcare AI as one of the main areas the city plans to develop, encouraging medical institutions to come up with simpler review systems to provide faster approvals for the testing of AI products.

Shenzhen will also permit low-risk AI products and services for healthcare to be deployed on a small scale for trial purposes.

The regulations also reinforce existing laws prohibiting breaches of personal data and actions that damage national security and the public interest. Shenzhen will set up an AI ethics committee, as well, to guide the development of the technology, according to the statement.

At stake is the 150 billion yuan (US$23.2 billion) AI industry in China, which is expected to see rapid growth to surpass 400 billion yuan in 2025, according to a report by iiMedia Research issued in February.

Shenzhen, home to some of China’s biggest tech giants including Tencent Holdings and Huawei Technologies Co, designated AI one of the main technology areas it wants to advance in the next five years.

Last October, the Chinese Communist Party and the country’s State Council issued a five-year plan for Shenzhen that granted the southern city autonomy to make decisions on a wide range of local policies, from land use to hiring global talent, in a bid to turn it into one of the world’s most advanced innovation hubs.

One of the privileges accorded Shenzhen was a free hand to explore legislation aimed at emerging industries.

In January, China’s top leadership vowed to focus on regulating areas such as internet finance, AI and big data as part of a detailed blueprint aimed at overhauling the country’s legal system over the next five years.

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