Building Global Capacity for Responsible Quantum Technologies

The second generation of quantum technologies (QT) promise a transformative wave of innovations with the potential to reshape industries, economies, and societies. Quantum applications in the making present myriad of opportunities and hold the potential to pave the way for a range of societal benefits aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many of the opportunities currently on the horizon seem particularly promising when considered from a truly global perspective. Quantum computing, for instance, promises an unprecedented leap in processing capabilities, enabling complex computations that were once deemed impossible. Nations across the globe have an opportunity to leverage this computational power for scientific research, economic modeling, and technological innovation, thereby narrowing the existing technological gaps. Advancements in quantum sensing technologies can be leveraged to enhance healthcare infrastructures globally, improve disease detection, and bolster public health initiatives. Majority world countries, often grappling with energy challenges, can utilize quantum advancements to accelerate their transition to sustainable and clean energy sources.

While the list of opportunities with global ramifications is long, current investment- and IP-patterns as well as lessons from the history of science are early warning signs that the benefits of QT – like in so many previous cycles of technology innovation – might be unequally distributed within societies and across the globe. Moreover, as currently observed in the AI space, the communities that benefit most from novel technologies are not necessarily those who also bear the costs of their development and usage. It is therefore for good reasons that recent research facilitated by the new Stanford Center for Responsible Quantum Technology has emphasized the importance of proactively addressing issues of global access to QT and put questions of equity front and center in the debates about responsible QT development.

In this fellowship project, Urs Gasser supported by research associate Constanze Albrecht will team up with the Global Network of Internet & Society Centers, including the Digital Asia Hub, to support existing and emerging regional and local capacity building efforts aimed at unlocking the benefits of quantum-enabled technologies for all people while proactively addressing context-specific risks and preventing harm. Through a series of multi-stakeholder exploratory workshops, engagements with diverse communities in selected majority world countries, and a global tech policy practice initiative, the project team will explore how the following challenges, among others, can be addressed collaboratively as QT are still malleable:

  • Access and Affordability: The cost associated with developing and implementing second-generation QTs pose a significant barrier for majority world countries. Bridging the financial gap to ensure access to these technologies becomes a key challenge, requiring international collaboration and innovative funding models.
  • Skills and Infrastructure Gap: QT demand a specialized skill set that is currently in short supply globally. Majority world nations might decide to invest in education and training programs to develop a workforce proficient in quantum mechanics, algorithms, and programming. Additionally, building the necessary infrastructure for quantum research and development is a substantial global challenge.
  • Ethical and Regulatory Concerns: QT raise ethical questions, especially regarding the potential misuse of quantum computing and related security implications. Majority world countries have much to contribute when shaping international regulations and ethical standards to ensure the responsible development and use of these technologies.
  • Integration with Existing Systems: Adapting existing infrastructure to accommodate QT poses a formidable challenge. Many nations may face difficulties integrating these advanced systems with their current technological frameworks, necessitating comprehensive planning and investments.

The second generation of QT brings forth a transformative wave with the potential to reshape industries, economies, and societies. While the opportunities are abundant, collaborative efforts on a global scale, addressing issues of affordability, skill development, ethical considerations, and infrastructure enhancement, will be crucial in ensuring that the benefits of QTs are inclusive and accessible to all. Through participatory research and the co-design of consultative processes, this fellowship project seeks to contribute to efforts that transcend geographical and economic boundaries, paving the way for a more equitable and technologically empowered future for all of humanity.

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