Artificial Intelligence: Potential New Solution to Global Poverty


SEATTLE — Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made advances such as allowing cars to park themselves, and having personal assistants such as Google Home or Alexia by Amazon. However, now officials, such as U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, say that A.I. also has a use as a solution to global poverty.

AI was the primary focus at the AI for Good Global Summit held earlier this month. This summit was for government officials, U.N. agencies, independent nonprofit industry leaders (NGOs), and AI experts to come together to talk about potential and current issues with AI. All talk about AI was in support of its innovation and how to use AI to the best of its potential ability.

The General Secretary of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Houlin Zhao talked about the importance of this summit in an interview:

“We have to encourage innovation, and we have to create an environment that encourages innovation. This is the time now for us to see if we can all work together to create a better platform to address the issues in front of us…”


UNICEF is a U.N. organization that gives assistance to children and mothers in developing countries by speaking about how AI can be a solution to global poverty. The group urges big business, such as Facebook and Google, to start sharing data with them so that aid can be given to people in need while also helping businesses and boosting the economy.

UNICEF co-Founder Christopher Fabian claims that by using AI to see which regions require more aid and what kind of support they need will allow organizations to help developing countries faster. Businesses can be made stronger by providing more products and services that are required by people in developing countries. Fabian stated in an interview that,

“We think we can work with people in the space of machine learning to understand the problem better and figure out where schools are and where we can provide feeding programs; where the most vulnerable communities are we could try to input something. That would both provide a stronger community but also really a stronger world.”

Solution to Global Poverty?

Secretary General Guterres agreed that AI could be a solution to global poverty.  However, he admitted that with other big industries look to benefit from AI causing developing countries to be at risk of being left behind. However, Guterres confirmed that the summit would make sure that AI will “chart a course that benefits humanity and bolsters our shared values.”

Andy Townsend who works with PwC emerging technology wrote about his experience at the summit. Townsend said that it felt as though two separate conferences were happening, one for the advanced world and another for the developing countries. He commented how the needs for AI for the two sides differ. For developing countries, AI would be used to speed up development while advanced nations were discussing more ethical issues such as data privacy and legal liability. Townsend wrote that “data issues in the United States are not equal to data issues in Uganda. And therefore different approaches are needed.”

Many talks had a focus on investing projects that are built from the bottom up so that larger enterprise project can take hold. This idea is significant because getting resources at an international level would not work since every country has a set of different problems. However, AI still has the potential to be a solution to global poverty and benefit big business as well.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr


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