Taiwan Technical Mission Participates in Soufriere Mini-Expo for World Consumer Rights Day

The Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM) recently participated in a Mini-Expo hosted by the Ministry of Commerce, Manufacturing, Business Development, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs, in observance of World Consumer Rights Day.

The Mini-Expo was held on Friday, March 15, 2024, at the Bus Terminal at Old Trafford in Soufriere, under the theme, “Fair and Responsible AI for Consumers”. The event featured booths from the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM), Consumer Affairs Department (CAD), St. Mary’s College (SMC), Saint Lucia Bureau of Standards (SLBS) and National Utilities Regulatory Commission (NURC).

At the Mini-Expo, many concerns related to AI were highlighted, including misinformation, privacy violations, and discriminatory practices, and also how AI-driven platforms can spread false information and perpetuate biases.

During the opening ceremony, H.E. Peter Chia-Yen Chen, made brief remarks, saying the impact of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) on our digital landscape has brought significant changes to various aspects of our lives, including work, communication, and information gathering.

H.E. Peter Chia-Yen Chen, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Saint Lucia, and Hon. Shawn Edward, Minister for Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Technology and Vocational Training, join a teacher and students from St. Mary’s College (SMC) at the World Consumers Rights Day Mini-Expo in Soufriere on Friday, March 15, 2024.

“Speaking of this advanced technology, my thoughts drift to the years 2019 to 2022, when we implemented the ICT for Educational Development Project,” said Ambassador Chen. “Through that Project, Taiwan teamed up with the Ministry of Education of Saint Lucia in establishing smart learning classrooms, integrating information technology into the educational environment, which brought tangible results in enhancing ICT and digitized teaching within Saint Lucian schools.”

Ambassador Chen shared brief insights into the ongoing “The Application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Digital Capacity Building Project” initiated in 2023, which aims to enhance ICT application capabilities in both the public and private sectors in Saint Lucia.

“As we look ahead, the connection between Taiwan and Saint Lucia in artificial intelligence and information technology will undoubtedly grow stronger,” Ambassador Chen stated. “May this World Consumer Rights Day event not only be marked by smooth proceedings, but also emerge as a beacon of success, illuminating the path toward greater consumer justice and equity.”

Ambassador Chen also launched the start of the “Call for Climate Coding Competition” which targets secondary school students for which winners will receive monetary prizes. The competition is a unique opportunity for students to develop projects that showcase their abilities and act towards a sustainable future, particularly addressing climate change challenges faced in Saint Lucia.

“In addition, the sponsorship from Taiwan NGO “STUF United Fund” makes this competition even more perfect,” he noted. “The STUF United Fund is dedicated to assisting in enhancing the programming skills of Saint Lucian students and would like to strongly encourage secondary school students in Saint Lucia to participate in this competition.”

Hon. Shawn Edward, Minister for Education, Sustainable Development, Innovation, Technology and Vocational Training, also offered brief remarks, underscoring the importance of AI in modern-day societies.

“Consumer rights are the bedrock of fair and ethical commerce, ensuring that individuals are treated with respect, integrity and transparency,” Hon. Edward said. “In today’s inter-connected world, where innovation and technology are transforming the way in which we live and interact with each other, safeguarding the rights of consumers is more critical than ever before.”

Hon. Edward noted that this year’s theme encourages policymakers to delve into the opportunities and risks of AI and ensure that both businesses and consumers are protected from risk and abuses associated with the technology.

“This surge of innovation comes with great responsibility,” he said. “And as we innovate and make strides in the realm of technology, we should never, ever, take for granted the responsibilities that come with the technological advances that we make.”

Mr. Simon Chen, ICT Project Manager, Mr. Shawn Lin, Assistant Technician, and Mr. Patrick Lin of the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM) engage students at the TTM booth at the World Consumer Rights Day Mini-Expo in Soufriere on Friday, March 15, 2024.

“The impact of artificial intelligence on technology has been profound and far-reaching, touching nearly every aspect of our lives,” Hon. Edward added. “AI impacts personalization in terms of data to understand individual preferences and behaviours, enabling personalized recommendation and experiences in areas such as e-commerce, content streaming, and social media. Our healthcare and finance (systems) have also been impacted in one way or another by artificial intelligence.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Charmaine Louis-Justin, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, said that while the Department of Commerce is cognizant of the great strides technology continues to make in the lives of citizens, the Ministry remains committed to ensuring that citizens are not shortchanged.

“As advocates for consumers rights and fair commercial practices, the Consumer Affairs Department of the Ministry of Commerce is keen to shed light on the impact of AI on consumers, and encourage fair and responsible practices in its development, deployment and usage,” said Louis-Justin.

“Despite acknowledging the transformative power of AI, we must be equally mindful of the potential pitfalls associated,” she cautioned. “In the era marked by advancement in artificial intelligence, we must continue to safeguard the rights and interests of consumers . Ethics and accountability must be embedded in the design and deployment of AI systems.”

Scores of students from primary and secondary schools in Soufriere visited the booths at the Mini-Expo, where they were provided with important information about AI. They also participated in quizzes with winners receiving prizes.

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