faculty & experts
27 September 2021

Studying The Applications and Governance of Digital Technology

Interview with Amandeep Singh Gill, recently nominated Professor of Practice at the Graduate Institute. 

You were previously Executive Director and co-Lead of the Secretariat of the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation, and served as India’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. What led you to the Institute?

The Institute has a reputation for rigorous interdisciplinary work, cutting across international relations, development studies, global governance, law and anthropology. Its faculty and student body are representative of the diversity and richness of the world today.

Moreover, the Global Health Centre was a welcoming host for incubating the International Digital Health & Artificial Intelligence Research Collaborative (I-DAIR). It might appear surprising that work on the applications and governance of digital technology should be conducted in a social-sciences-rich setting but, if we reflect a bit, it is absolutely the right thing to do. 

Could you explain more about the work you are currently leading at I-DAIR? 

I-DAIR’s mission is to facilitate the digital transformation of health through collaborative research and development. Its origins lie in discussions from 2017–2019 on data governance, digital cooperation and AI to maximise the potential of these powerful technologies for good, while avoiding their misuse and missed use. Existing neutral platforms for science collaboration such as CERN have been an inspiration, as well as the work of the UN Secretary General’s Panel.

The focus in the first year has been on clarifying I-DAIR’s value-add for national and regional efforts, building a diverse transdisciplinary team, and putting together key policy, funding and scientific partnerships. We have also concentrated on an innovative architecture of regional hubs (so far in Chile, India, Kenya, Singapore, Switzerland and Tunisia).

This year our focus has been on kick-starting exploratory work under what we call “pathfinders”, which provide an intellectual frame for distilling a scientific agenda for digital health, and on demonstrating how common research design, a shared neutral infrastructure and distributed datasets lead to collaborative development of AI.

What are your research and teaching priorities as Professor of Practice at the Institute?

One of my priorities is consolidating the Institute’s longstanding intellectual contribution to international security and multilateral arms control with a new focus on emerging technologies.

Another is to help students think about international knowledge-making in multiple domains by using a learning framework.

A third is to create a policy niche on data and AI governance, while training a new generation of transdisciplinary thinkers through concrete examples of digital governance dilemmas and responses from the fields of health and security.

This article was published in Globe #28.