The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in various sectors has opened up new opportunities for innovation and growth. However, a recent study conducted by UN Women and the United Nations University Institute in Macau (UNU Macau) sheds light on the systemic issues that can potentially put women’s security at risk in South-East Asia. This article will delve into the implications of gender biases in widely used AI-systems and their impact on the women, peace, and security (WPS) agenda.

The research report highlights the prevalence of gender biases across AI-systems and how these biases act as a significant obstacle to the positive utilization of AI in the context of peace and security. Four types of gender biases in AI – discrimination, stereotyping, exclusion, and insecurity – were identified as key areas that need to be addressed to harness the full potential of AI technologies. These biases not only hinder women’s access to the benefits of AI but also contribute to perpetuating inequality.

One of the critical findings of the study is the heightened risk faced by women human rights defenders (WHRDs) and women’s civil society organizations (WCSOs) in South-East Asia. Despite being aware of the cyber threats they face, these groups often lack the resources and knowledge to adequately prepare for or recover from cyber-attacks. The report underscores the urgent need to enhance digital security measures for WHRDs and WCSOs to safeguard their work and amplify their voices in the digital sphere.

The research delves into the complex relationship between AI and the WPS agenda, categorizing AI applications into AI for peace, neutral AI, and AI for conflict. While AI has the potential to enhance conflict prevention and promote gender-responsive peace efforts, the unequal utilization of these technologies across genders poses a significant challenge. Women are disproportionately affected by gender biases embedded in AI systems, limiting their opportunities to benefit from technological advancements in the realm of peace and security.

The second report focuses on cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities among WHRDs and WCSOs in South-East Asia, shedding light on the gendered nature of cyber threats. WCSOs and WHRDs are specifically targeted due to the focus of their work, facing misogynistic and sexualized harassment online. The heightened threat perceptions and experiences of WCSOs compared to other civil society organizations underscore the need for tailored cybersecurity measures to protect vulnerable groups from digital attacks.

The study proposes a series of recommendations to enhance cybersecurity resilience among WHRDs and WCSOs, emphasizing the importance of inclusive and collaborative approaches in cybersecurity policy development. It calls for the empowerment of civil society, government, and private-sector actors to develop comprehensive strategies for preventing and responding to cyber threats. Specific attention should be given to women’s groups operating in politically volatile contexts and regions characterized by shrinking civic spaces.

The research conducted by UN Women and UNU Macau underscores the critical importance of addressing gender biases in AI and enhancing cybersecurity measures for WHRDs and WCSOs in South-East Asia. By promoting gender-responsive peace efforts and safeguarding the digital rights of women, we can work towards a more inclusive and equitable society. The findings of these reports serve as a call to action for stakeholders to prioritize the security and well-being of women in the digital age.

Technology

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