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WEF releases global quantum computing governance principles

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 20 Jan 2022

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released global best-practice governance principles for quantum computing, which it says will guide future design and adoption of the technology.

The international organisation, headquartered in Geneva, yesterday released a new Insight Report as part of its Davos Agenda 2022.

It says it is critical to address the ethical concerns of quantum computing well before commercialisation, and set standards now to ensure an equitable framework for the future.

The governance principles were co-designed by a global multi-stakeholder community composed of quantum experts, emerging technology ethics and law experts, decision-makers and policy-makers, social scientists and academics.

The principles are grouped into nine themes, which include transformative capabilities, access to hardware infrastructure, open innovation, cyber security, standardisation, workforce development and capability-building.

“All stakeholders in the quantum computing community are responsible for ensuring the intentional misuse of quantum computing for harmful purposes is not accepted or inadvertently positively sanctioned,” says WEF.

The organisation says the next steps for the quantum computing governance initiative will be to work with wider stakeholder groups to adopt these principles as part of broader governance frameworks and policy approaches.

“With this framework, business and investment communities along with policy-makers and academia will be better equipped to adopt to the coming paradigm shift. Ultimately, everyone will be better prepared to harness the transformative capabilities.”

The release of these governance principles comes at a time investments in quantum computing are booming globally.

In the past year, WEF says, national governments have invested over $25 billion in quantum computing research and over $1 billion in venture capital deals have closed.

In SA, organisations are already being urged to become quantum-ready to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the technology.

“Governments and industries are accelerating their investments in quantum computing research and development worldwide,” says Derek O’Halloran, head of digital economy at WEF.

“This report starts the conversation that will help us understand the opportunities, set the premise for ethical guidelines, and pre-empt socio-economic, political and legal risks well ahead of global deployment.”

“Quantum computing holds the potential to help solve some of society's greatest challenges, and IBM has been at the forefront of bringing quantum hardware and software to communities of discovery worldwide,” says Dr Heike Riel, IBM fellow, head of science and technology and lead for quantum at IBM Research Europe.

"This report is a key step in initiating the discussion around how quantum computing should be shaped and governed, for the benefit of all."

Professor Bronwyn Fox, chief scientist at CSIRO, Australia’s science national agency, comments: “The principles reflect conversations CSIRO’s scientists have had with partners from around the world who share an ambition for a responsible quantum future.

“Embedding responsible innovation in quantum computing is key to its successful deployment and uptake for generations to come. CSIRO is committed to ensuring these principles are used to support a strong quantum industry in Australia and generate significant social and public good."

Similarly, Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of artificial intelligence and machine learning at WEF, says: “The critical opportunity at the dawn of this historic transformation is to address ethical, societal and legal concerns well before commercialisation.

“This report represents an early intervention and the beginning of a multi-disciplinary, global conversation that will guide the development of quantum computing to the benefit of all society.”