How Can AI Support Sustainable Development?

AI Lab participants demystify the world of (wo)man and machine

If you had to define Artificial Intelligence (AI), where would you begin? 

Information processing. Machine learning. Computer-based problem solving. The list goes on. Even MIT computer scientists debate on the definition:

During this first block of the Leading with AI: Ignite and build your AI-driven ideas Lab, co-hosted by GIZ’s Global Leadership Academy and the International Training Centre of the ILO, participants began to demystify AI. 

Definitions stretched far and wide, touching upon the many facets of AI. For a Cameroonian participant, AI technology is referred to as “Marabout,” meaning anything that is not human yet does what a human can do. 

While for another participant, AI recalls human-centred design or the approach that puts the human perspective at the heart of innovation. This further evolves into “how AI systems can consider, protect, and help fulfill notions of dignity and human rights for people.”

Slowly but surely, the AI buzzwords and definitions began to fall into place. Lap participants fostered their unique (AI)BCs. 

Inputs and insights

To explore the potential opportunities, challenges, certainties, and uncertainties of an AI-driven society, participants engaged in a collaborative brainstorming session. Post-it by post-it the virtual whiteboard began to fill with ideas, visions, and risks.

What we know for certain is that AI will increase our efficiency and productivity, nevertheless it is not equivalent to human intelligence. Participants noted that many governments, scholars, and businesses are investing in AI research and development. AI sparks curiosity, but humanity still offers an added value.

“Humans give wisdom to machines.”

What will be the role of our emotions when AI becomes a key component of our human interactions? Are we as humans developed enough to use AI for good? How can we make sure AI is used ethically? This just scratches the surface of what participants question and wonder about AI.

Contemporary applications and integrations of AI come with a series of challenges about trust, unreliable datasets, and technological threats. Participants advocated for rethinking our education models to promote new skills required by AI. 

Moving forward, the opportunities for man and machine are endless. From diagnosing diseases to tackling climate change and helping rural communities, AI has the potential to scale up the reach of services. With routine tasks being replaced, AI makes space for more innovation and creativity

AI for SD

The versatility and interdisciplinary nature of AI uniquely positions it to address sustainable development challenges to further accelerate achieving the 17 SDGs during this Decade of Action. But how? The Lab participants have the answer.

AI for good health and wellbeing. Many participants shared how AI could effectively trace and monitor the spread of COVID-19 to reduce the risk of infection. An important consideration was how AI could be better integrated in developing countries where it might not be as easily accessible. 

AI for quality education. With the global crisis underway, questions and concerns are swirling in the heads of the Lab participants. “What if we’re jobless in a few years? Do we have to upgrade our skills?” they voiced. AI Labs like this one might just well be the first step towards answering these perplexities. 

Continue accompanying the participants on their learning journey. Check in soon on Leading with AI. 

Virtual Panels

Engage, discuss, and collaborate
with AI experts

Virtual Roundtables enable participants to network, learn and benefit from the shared knowledge and experience of the group through moderated dialogue. Gather online, take part in structured and themed discussions around the Lab topics.