AI Regulatory Sandbox

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May 15, 2024

Why in news?

Recently governments and regulatory bodies are turning to “AI regulatory sandboxes” to balance fostering AI innovation with ensuring responsible development.

What are regulatory sandboxes?

  • About- Regulatory sandboxes allow businesses to test and experiment with new and innovative products, services, or business models.
  • Safe space- These experiments occur under the supervision of a regulator within a controlled environment.
  • Dual purpose- To facilitate
    • Business learning- Development and testing
    • Regulatory learning- Formulating experimental legal regimes.
  • 2019 OECD AI principles- It recommended the governments to consider using experimentation to provide a controlled environment in which AI systems can be tested and scaled up.
  • Status- As per World Bank in 2020 there were approximately 73 regulatory sandboxes, both announced and operational, within the financial sector across 57 jurisdictions.

What are the steps taken by India to promote AI regulatory sandboxes?

  • Financial regulators- All financial sector regulators in India have launched their respective regulatory sandboxes.

Financial regulators of India

  • RBI regulatory sandbox- It allows fintech entities to test new financial products and services in a controlled environment, where the central bank may allow certain regulatory relaxation.
  • Karnataka- It has gone beyond finance by enacting the Karnataka Innovation Authority Act, 2020, establishing an Innovation Authority dedicated to promoting and regulating innovative technologies through a regulatory sandbox model.
  • Telecommunications Act 2023- It proposes a regulatory sandbox in the field of telecommunications that aims to promote and facilitate one or more regulatory sandboxes specifying the manner and duration for their implementation.
  • Draft National Strategy on Robotics- It recommended the usage of regulatory sandbox.

Global regulatory landscapes on AI regulatory sandbox

  • UK- The first formal regulatory sandbox is formed by establishing Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Japan- It encourages experimentation with new technologies like blockchain, AI and Internet of Things (IOT).
  • Norway- It established a regulatory sandbox as part of its national AI strategy it focuses on providing guidance on personal data protection for both private and public companies.
  • European Union- Artificial Intelligence Act envisages setting up coordinated AI 'regulatory sandboxes' to foster innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) across the EU

What are the benefits of AI regulatory sandbox?

  • Promotes innovation- It enables the development of AI technologies without the immediate risk of violating laws or regulations, thus reducing the ‘time to market’ for innovations
  • Quick response- Sandboxes can quickly adapt to new technological developments, unlike traditional legislation which can be slow and outdated by the time it’s implemented.
  • Consumer protection- They provide a safe testing ground to identify and mitigate potential risks, ensuring AI systems are safe for consumer use.
  • Collaboration- Sandboxes encourage collaboration between regulators, businesses, and stakeholders, leading to more effective regulations that balance innovation with public safety.

What are the challenges of regulatory sandboxes?

  • Inefficient implementation- Concerns about the rapid growth of fintech regulatory sandboxes without proper assessment of feasibility, demand, and potential outcomes, leading to unanticipated impacts on competition and regulation2.
  • Scalability issues- Sandboxes designed for small-scale testing may face pressure to expand as companies recognize the competitive advantage of participating, which could require automation of some processes.
  • Regulatory fragmentation- Diverging policies and international competition could lead to lenient conditions in some sandboxes, causing regulatory arbitrage and the need for a harmonized international legal framework for cross-sandbox compatibility.
  • Risk of misuse- Regulatory sandboxes can potentially be misused by participants who may exploit the relaxed regulatory environment to test products that could pose risks to consumers or the broader market.
  • Unforeseen consequences- Innovative technologies can have unexpected impacts such as market disruptions, ethical issues or social implications that are difficult to predict within the controlled environment of a regulatory sandbox.
  • Lack of consistency- Inconsistent application and enforcement of regulations within sandboxes can create uncertainty and reduce their effectiveness.

What lies ahead?

  • A regulatory sandbox should not be viewed as an approach to directly govern AI, but rather as a progressive step preceding formal legislation.
  • It serves as a preparatory measure tailored to India’s specific circumstances, paving the way for future regulatory actions aligned with the country’s needs and developments in the AI landscape.

Quick facts

Steps taken by India to promote AI

  • NITI Aayog's National Strategy for AI- It  led to creation for National Portal for AI serving as a central repository for AI resources, research, and developments in India.
  • AI Innovation Report, 2023- It is released by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) which outlines India’s AI vision through 7 working groups focused on different aspects of AI deployment and development.
  • Digital India Act, 2023- It includes provisions for regulating AI through a dedicated set of laws and regulations, addressing the unique challenges and opportunities presented by AI technologies.
  • Global Partnership on AI- India is a member country, it adopted GPAI New Delhi Declaration on advancing safe, secure, and trustworthy AI and commitment to supporting the sustainability of GPAI projects.
  • AIDef- Artificial Intelligence in Defence  is a symposium held in 2022 that showcased cutting edge AI enabled solutions developed by industry, start-ups etc.,
  • It includes Defence AI Council and Defence AI Project Agency that facilitates AI integration in defence.
  • AIRAWAT- AI Research, Analytics and knowledge Assimilation will be based on the recommendations of the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (NSAI), which has identified areas that are hampering the growth potential of AI in India.



  1. The Hindu- Regulatory sandboxes in AI
  2. OECD- Regulatory sandbox in Artificial Intelligence
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