Artificial Intelligence to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Last week the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) launched their study on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Sustainable Development: STEERING AI AND ADVANCED ICTS FOR KNOWLEDGE SOCIETIES – A Rights, Openness, Access and Multi-stakeholder Perspective on Internet Freedom”

The study recognizes artificial intelligence as an opportunity to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through its contribution to building inclusive knowledge societies.

Artificial Intelligence in the report is described as “machines capable of imitating certain functionalities of human intelligence, including such features as perception, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, language interaction, and even producing creative work”.

The publication explores the multiple implications for AI along six dimensions (ROAM-X)

Human Rights such as freedom of expression, privacy and equality;

Openness with regard to knowledge, open data, and open and pluralistic markets;

Inclusive Access regarding research, human resources, data and hardware;

Multi-stakeholder governance;

Cross-cutting issues (X): Gender equality and Africa.

This framework can help to achieve the SDG’s through AI.

A great example of how AI can be used to enhance sustainable development is PlantVillage (Goralski & Tanm 2020). This project attempts to diagnose plant diseases by using an app on a common inexpensive smartphone by a farmer in the field anywhere in the world. Simply by taking a photo the app connects with a database that can recognize and identify plant diseases. With AI being a technology of low-cost prediction and discovery, vast amounts of data can be utilized to identify patterns and make predictions. This initiative can enhance the SDGs, including SDG #2 on Zero Hunger, SDG #9 on Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, and SDG #10 on Reduced Inequalities.

Examples like PlantVillage can be a an inspiration for how AI can be used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through the six dimensions (ROAM-X) of UNESCO.

Norbert Bol

Literature

Goralski, M.A., & Tan, T.K.. (2020). Artificial intelligence and sustainable development The International Journal of Management Education145, 75-89.

STEERING AI AND ADVANCED ICTS FOR KNOWLEDGE SOCIETIES – A Rights, Openness, Access and Multi-stakeholder Perspective on Internet Freedom, UNESCO (2019).

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