The AI Sustainable Development Summit 2019 focused on serious questions around artificial intelligence, big data, and data-driven social innovation (28 September, 2019 in NYC). The event consisted of thought leaders and practitioners in AI and sustainable development. Together they explored innovative solutions for the economic, social, and environmental challenges that encompass the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Repeating themes revolved around the importance of collecting and analyzing social and environmental data in ways that reflect the communities involved, ownership of the collected data and the best (and worst) ways to utilize it.
One of the most inspiring speakers was Dr. Kenneth Strzepek, co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, as lead writer of the IPCC Report on Climate Change. In his keynote, Dr. Kent raised several important questions including a question we, at the Foundation, ask ourselves often: How do we account for social risk? In the context of impact ventures the questions is: How do we account for social risk alongside financial risk when discussing impact investments? In long term social interventions we must also account for the price of waiting, and not just the price of the intervention and accompanying risk factors.
Dr. Kenneth also offered an interesting shift in narrative and suggested we start thinking of AI not just as artificial intelligence (a term that makes many of us this about the Terminator) but rather think of it as assistive intelligence.
Finally, when asked: What would be the number one social challenge to invest in today? Dr. Kenneth’s response was aligned with much of the research we are seeing: social interventions focused on girls’ education in emerging markets and developing communities is a solid asset in our joint global future.
A fascinating perspective on AI and specifically the elements of data gathering and analyses within social settings was offered by Reem Khouri, the Co-Founder & CEO Whyise - providing organizations with an impact analytics solution. Ms. Khouri honed in on the importance of understanding: What exact data we should (and shouldn’t) collect and why are we collecting this data? Data collection must be aligned with the venture’s Theory of Change and benefit (not harm) its stakeholders.
Dr. Senan Ibrahim, Founder and Chairman of Hikma Health, an NGO working with organizations around the world to provide free healthcare to refugees offered an interesting perspective on the intersection between healthcare, data and the global refugee crisis. Dr. Ibrahim discussed the significance of adapting health care practices to diverse populations and not just Caucasian males (the historic default in medical studies).
Interesting takeaways included some suggestions and open ended questions from the speakers - collect data with diversity in mind and make sure to account for biases when presenting or consuming data. How do we deal with the fact that we still have data deserts on the one hand and “too much” data on the other? To whom does social data belong? Should and can data become a public/semi-public good? What are the unexpected consequences of data collection?
Chapeau to Organizers Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Ramy Noaman and Ahmed Galal of the AI for SDG Group for the interesting event.
Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash