Can the diverse AI community come together to build an infrastructure to advance the United Nation's sustainable development goals (SDGs) around the world? Can global projects be developed that begin to address pressing issues surrounding some of our greatest humanitarian challenges to help all? That was the goal of the second annual AI for Good Global Summit, the leading United Nations platform for dialogue on Artificial Intelligence held in Geneva, Switzerland over three days in May.
The conference was organized by International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology (ICT) in partnership with the XPRIZE Foundation, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and 32 sister UN agencies. The 500+ attendees consisted of a diverse set of multi-stakeholders with wide-ranging expertise—from the individual UN agencies (including everything from UNESCO and UNICEF to The World Health Organization, The World Bank and UNHCR), AI researchers, public and private sector decision-makers, potential financial partners and sponsor organizations.
The focus of the 2018 edition of the AI for Good Summit was to bring together stakeholders prepared to propose practical projects to tackle topics within the 17 SDGs. Inspired by the XPRIZE incentive model, the goal was to present actual proposals in front of attendees to validate feasibility, timing, and how meaningful next steps can be identified. In short, setting actual solutions in motion.
As part of the summit design, AI innovators in attendance were connected with invited public and private-sector decision-makers. Four breakthrough tracks—looking at satellite imagery, healthcare, smart cities, and trust in AI—set out to propose AI strategies with supporting projects to advance sustainable development. Teams were guided in this effort by an expert audience representing industry, academia, government, and civil society. Each track proposed projects as well as introduced existing and future obstacles to the attendees who then worked collaboratively to take promising strategies forward.
The results were demonstrative of a strong momentum and multi-stakeholder interest in collaboration to identify AI-based solutions with action at the core. The AI for Good Summit has achieved agreement on a community-oriented approach to support 35 projects, fast-tracked so they can be realized as quickly as six months through a two-or-three year window. Priority projects coming out of each of the event tracks included:
Data Commons would offer assemblies of datasets and supporting usage of AI tools, knowledge, and expertise of AI practitioners to launch new AI projects, scale-up fast, and contribute new and improved resources to the AI for Good community. Data Commons would provide a foundation of the AI Commons, a global initiative proposed at the conclusion of the AI for Good Summit. AI Commons would help make access to AI capabilities universal and provide the public a platform to solve challenges with AI and drive inclusion.
The AI Commons is expected to be announced in late Q3 with opportunities for all stakeholders to join and participate in its development and deployment.
With collaborative efforts such as these, we are seeing the AI community working together to create an infrastructure for responsible communication, development, and trust. The foundational work that began at the first AI for Good Summit has allowed us to start a dialogue, find a common frame of reference, and decide how our steps would be smart and structured. Our focus this year was to accelerate progress, launching projects that will show tangible results and provide positive impact in key areas. The cycle is set to continue. The 2019 summit will take stock of progress and will continue the focus on identifying practical ways to identify and implement AI for Good projects
This is a time of building infrastructure, guidelines, and kicking off focused development of tangible tools to accelerate the beneficial. Using AI for Good is the mantra that is gaining traction with more participation and conversations that make sense, and the conversation isn't going to stop. AI innovations constitute one of the platforms that can bring benefits for everyone, and is a platform that can be a public asset for the common good. There is a great need to extend AI to more people and more places in a responsible way. We believe that giving the public a commons platform can benefit everyone.
Amir Banifatemi is the Group Lead, AI and Frontier Technologies for XPRIZE.
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