A Global Summit in Geneva puts AI in the service of poverty and the Sustainable Development Goals

Mar 12, 2018 | Author: Patricia Morén / Jordi Suñé


Artificial intelligence (AI) increases exponentially, but does it do it in the same way worldwide? The answer is No. While the richest areas of our planet and the most wealthiest social classes have access to each new solution and service of AI systems, the poorest run the risk of not accessing this force of change in science and the world economy. Conscious of this reality, the next AI Summit in Geneva will focus on the use of AI to help achieving the sustainable development goals of the 2030 Agenda, the first of which is the end of poverty.

The British physicist Stephen Hawking, recently deceased, said that the complete development of artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to the end of the human species and argued that the priority research lines should not only focus on improving AI capabilities, but also "to maximize the social benefit of AI". Hawking stated this in Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence: An Open Letter that he made public in 2015. Since then, 8,000 scientists from all around the world have signed it. Hawking predicted that the social impact of AI would only continue to grow and that with the AI "the eradication of poverty and disease is not unfathomable". But also that, due to its enormous potential, "it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding pitfalls," he warned in the Open Letter.

The focus: Sustainable Development Goals

The same year, in 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to which signatory countries and societies should aspire for that by 2030. Among these SDGs there are included many goals directly related to underdevelopment and poverty, such as the end of poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, climate action or reduced inequalities, among others.

Today, in line with that universal call of the SDGs and the Hawking's Open Letter, the next AI for Good Global Summit, to be held in Geneva (Switzerland) from 15th to 17th of May, 2018, has the vocation to seek AI solutions that can have a beneficial long- term impact to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This second Global AI Summit is being held under the slogan "Accelerating progress towards sustainable development goals" and recapturing the spirit of the first and successful Global AI Summit for the Good of 2017, which also took place in Geneva. Both important meetings have been organized by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for Information and Communication Technologies (TIC), in partnership with the XPrize Foundation, the leading foundation in incentivized prize competitions, based in Culver City (California).

The editions of the AI for Good Global Summit is the leading platform of the United Nations for dialogue on artificial intelligence. The new edition of 2018 is action-oriented and, therefore, aims to identify practical AI applications and support strategies to improve the quality and sustainability of life on our planet. Among other experiences, innovations on the potential of AI to map poverty and aid from natural disasters will be shared and presented, using satellite imagery or how AI could help provide citizen- centered services in smart cities, to achieve universal health coverage and, finally, to help transparency and explainability in AI algorithms.