Zaisan Monument, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia photo by — @adliwahid

AI Strategy in Mongolia

Artificial Intelligence in the Land of the True Digital Nomads

I thought it would be interesting to attempt understanding the AI strategy of Mongolia. Although there are few official documents I thought I would navigate to see what is happening in the country.

Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia. Its area is roughly equivalent with the historical territory of Outer Mongolia, and that term is sometimes used to refer to the current state. It is sandwiched between Russia to the north and China to the south, where it neighbours the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The Digital Strategy in Mongolia

Seemingly one of the only available digital strategies for Mongolia was launched together with an external organisation called The Pathways for Prosperity Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development (Pathways) — launched in January 2018. It was hosted and managed by Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government and collaborates with international development partners, developing country governments, private sector leaders, emerging entrepreneurs and civil society.

They held a six-month design process to create a national digital strategy and bring the whole country into the digital age. The process was focused on economic inclusion and was launched on the 18th of September.

It starts by arguing that for Mongolians being a digital nomad is more than a lifestyle choice. While the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar is a financial metropolis, 50% of Mongolians live outside the capital, with many people still living traditional nomadic existences across the vast rural areas of the country. Pathways developed the Digital Economy Kit, designed to support governments wanting to get their economies geared up for the digital age.

Mongolia in a Digital Age

The report was called Mongolia in a Digital Age. Mainly it covers infrastructure, labour, financing and equality. In the introduction artificial intelligence is mentioned:

“Over the last 10 years, information technology goods and services have boomed, and Mongolia’s young and adaptable population has embraced IT products for personal and professional uses. Disruptive technologies, including artificial intelligence, blockchain, and advanced data analytics, have already been introduced to Mongolia.” [bold added]

In another area machine learning is mentioned in connection to mining:

“New technologies in such autonomous vehicles, remote operating centers, automated drilling and tunnel boring systems, machine learning and more are going to fundamentally change the way that the mining sector operates, greatly improving safety and productivity, and improving gender participation and environmental sustainability in mining.” [bold added]

It has a mention as well in the section about education:

“In addition, Mongolia is ranked 56th in the world19 for the Quality of Math and Science Education which are critical for development or adaptation of frontier technologies powered by machine learning and data analytics.” [bold added]

It apparently is considered to have a low ability to retain talent.

It seems as well like there is a lot of informal employment amongst the youth population.

There is talk of ger districts.

A ger district (Mongolian: гэр хороолол, ger khoroolol) is a form of residential district in Mongolian settlements. They usually consist of parcels with one or more detached houses or gers (hence the name), surrounded by two-metre high wooden fences. In other countries, gers are known as yurts.

There is a mention that these districts face particular problems.

Mongolia Gets an Investment into Artificial Intelligence

One company is building a new artificial intelligence (AI) development center in Ulaanbaatar. The company, Data Artist, is a subsidiary of Dentsu, a major Japanese advertisement agency.

The company choose Mongolia due to the attractive employment market, including large numbers of mathematically strong technical experts. This is credited at least partially to years of effort by the Mongolian government to promote talent in mathematics. Such skills are considered essential for development of AI, and Data Artist is confident of being able to fill these roles in Mongolia. According to a Mongolian law firm this has been constructive for stock market.

“Mongolia’s Financial Regulatory Commission has confirmed that the Mongolia stock market has reached a high of 2.4 trillion MNT which is the highest level in the last 27 years. The growth is credited to mergers, bonds, more IPOs and the success of various private exchanges. More broadly, the growth reflects a stronger Mongolian economy, and hopefully portends future economic growth. One of the largest sectors for growth has been traditional finance and newer ‘Fintech’ companies.”

LawTech Chatbot KhanLex

Another initiative I stumbled across was a Mongolian chatbot from a local Mongolian firm MDS KhanLex has unveiled its online contract automation and artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot platform — iGeree — which will initially focus on employment law. This is apparently a ‘robot lawyer’ to solve civil disputes.

The iGeree platform consists of 2 services:

  • A contract automation platform, enabling construction and drafting of legal documents without requiring user legal skill or knowledge; and
  • An AI / natural-language trained chatbot which provides instant legal advice within its trained scope.
  • The contract automation platform is subscription based, while the chatbot component is accessible free of charge.
  • Employment law currently constitutes 13.6% of civil disputes in Mongolia.

Strengthening AI Education

I spotted that recently the person responsible for the oldest university in Mongolia had talked of AI. The National University of Mongolia is the oldest university in Mongolia, established in 1942 and originally named in honour of Marshal Khorloogiin Choibalsan. It hosts twelve schools and faculties in Ulaanbaatar, and runs branches in the Zavkhan and Orkhon Aimags. Dr Ya. Tumurbaatar, president of the National University of Mongolia tells in an interview from late 2019 that:

“NUM has been well recognised in areas comprising environment protection, nomadic history and Mongolian studies worldwide. This will undoubtedly make a significant contribution to training future personnel to drive economic development and exploit the untapped natural resources of Mongolia. Therefore, we would like to both strengthen these directions, while also continuing to develop AI, systems engineering and cell research.”

Any National Strategy on Artificial Intelligence?

There does not seem to be any current initiative to develop a national strategy on artificial intelligence. However it would make sense for such a strategy perhaps to consider the environment protection in combination with AI since this is an international strength that as an example The National University of Mongolia has. Collaboration with Japan would perhaps be possible as well due to the recent investment by Japan into Mongolia.

This is #500daysofAI and you are reading article 243. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence every day for 500 days. My current focus for 100 days 200–300 is national and international strategies for artificial intelligence.

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau