International cooperation is key to inclusive AI


On 2-6 March 2020, participants from all corners of the globe will visit the UNESCO Headquarters to discuss ways to steer the use of artificial intelligence (AI) towards the direction of inclusion and equity. The 2020 edition of Mobile Learning Week (MLW) marks a turning point for the UNESCO flagship event on technology in education. It is becoming critical that we bring as many policymakers, businesses and international organizations together to help ensure that AI offers learning opportunities for all.

One of the themes discussed during the week will touch on the issue of how to solidify international cooperation to promote inclusive access to AI and digital innovations.

Many questions regarding the ways in which countries can work together to ensure that we do not exacerbate the digital gap remain unanswered. Among those questions: how can partnerships promote international sharing of data, public-good AI technologies and capacity-building programmes to help developing countries catch up and avoid a widened AI divide? How are international initiatives monitoring the AI divide and revealing issues in relation to exclusion and disparities in accessing AI?

Kathleen Siminyu is a data scientist and machine-learning engineer, Regional Coordinator for the Artificial Intelligence for Development and Co-Founder of the Nairobi Women in Machine Learning and Data Science community. Before coming to UNESCO as a plenary speaker, she shares her view on how international initiatives can ensure that AI development does not exacerbate the digital divide:

“International initiatives can support the work of redesigning tech for communal control and decentralisation which would counter the development. They can also advocate for discussions around tech that are holistic and address structural inequality, identity culture and politics as well as support capacity building of technical expertise in the developing world.”

Kathleen suggested that when thinking about the digital world, the focus should not just be on Western experience, but also on the developing countries in the global south. This could include the advancement of “voice-enabled devices with support for local languages and contextually-aware technology for better education, healthcare and agricultural practices in the developing world.”

UNESCO recognizes that the AI revolution must not expand the already major gaps within countries, nor between the developed and developing world. Global, cross-sectoral, north-south and south-south cooperation and partnerships are crucial.

As a plenary speakers during MLW, Kathleen will focus on how to make AI inclusive for women and people of African descent and on exploring the use of local languages in AI.

MLW 2020 will provide a unique platform to bring speakers together and facilitate international dialogue on the event’s theme this year - Artificial Intelligence and Inclusion.