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Artificial Intelligence

Leveraging technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Mahmoud Mohieldin's picture
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank
A drone delivery project made Rwanda the first country in the world to use the drone technology at the service of saving lives. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank


Billions of people are connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge -- foreshadowing stunning possibilities.  This potential is multiplied by technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, big data processing, the internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, blockchain, etc.
 
This so called 4th industrial revolution can help accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, Science, Technology and Innovation, together with Financing for Development, were identified by the UN as one of the two main “means of implementation” to achieve the SDGs by 2030 as it cuts across all SDGs as highlighted by International Telecommunication Union’s Fast Forward Progress Report – Leveraging Tech to Achieve the SDGs.

The future of transport is here. Are you ready?

Stephen Muzira's picture
Photo: Max Talbot-Minkin/Flickr
Technology is transforming transport with a speed and scale that are hard to comprehend. The transport systems of tomorrow will be connected, data-driven, shared, on-demand, electric, and highly automated. Ideas are moving swiftly from conception, research and design, testbed to early adoption, and, finally, mass acceptance. And according to projections, the pace of innovation is only going to accelerate.

Autonomous cars are expected to comprise about 25% of the global market by 2040. Flying taxis are already tested in Dubai. Cargo drones will become more economical than motorcycle delivery by 2020. Three Hyperloop systems are expected by 2021. Maglev trains are already operating in Japan, South Korea, and China, and being constructed or planned in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA. Blockchain technology has already been used to streamline the procedures for shipping exports, reducing the processing and handling times for key documents, increasing efficiency and reliability,

How can machine learning and artificial intelligence be used in development interventions and impact evaluations?

David McKenzie's picture

Last Thursday I attended a conference on AI and Development organized by CEGA, DIME, and the World Bank’s Big Data groups (website, where they will also add video). This followed a World Bank policy research talk last week by Olivier Dupriez on “Machine Learning and the Future of Poverty Prediction” (video, slides). These events highlighted a lot of fast-emerging work, which I thought, given this blog’s focus, I would try to summarize through the lens of thinking about how it might help us in designing development interventions and impact evaluations.

A typical impact evaluation works with a sample S to give them a treatment Treat, and is interested in estimating something like:
Y(i,t) = b(i,t)*Treat(i,t) +D’X(i,t) for units i in the sample S
We can think of machine learning and artificial intelligence as possibly affecting every term in this expression:

The rise of artificial intelligence: what does it mean for development?

Leebong Lee's picture

Video: Artificial intelligence for the SDGs (International Telecommunication Union)

Along with my colleagues on the ICT sector team of the World Bank, I firmly believe that ICTs can play a critical role in supporting development. But I am also aware that professionals on other sector teams may not necessarily share the same enthusiasm.

Typically, there are two arguments against ICTs for development. First, to properly reap the benefits of ICTs, countries need to be equipped with basic communication and other digital service delivery infrastructure, which remains a challenge for many of our low-income clients. Second, we need to be mindful of the growing divide between digital-ready groups vs. the rest of the population, and how it may exacerbate broader socio-economic inequality.

These concerns certainly apply to artificial intelligence (AI), which has recently re-emerged as an exciting frontier of technological innovation. In a nutshell, artificial intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines. Unlike the several “AI winters” of the past decades, AI technologies really seem to be taking off this time. This may be promising news, but it challenges us to more clearly validate the vision of ICT for development, while incorporating the potential impact of AI.

It is probably too early to figure out whether AI will be blessing or a curse for international development… or perhaps this type of binary framing may not be the best approach. Rather than providing a definite answer, I’d like to share some thoughts on what AI means for ICT and development.

Preparing for the future - A logistics industry roadmap

Yin Yin Lam's picture
Photo: Sarah Starkweather/Flickr
The government of Singapore recently outlined its vision for the country's future, describing how different sectors could harness technology, innovation and mega-trends in order to take the city-state to the next level. This approach includes a dedicated Industry Transformation Map for the logistics sector, which accounts for 7.7% of Singapore's GDP and over 8% of jobs. Logistics is also understood as a crucial enabler for other significant parts of the economy, such as manufacturing and trade.

How is Singapore anticipating the transformation of logistics?

Singapore has been considered a major logistics hub for quite some time, and is currently ranked first in Asia according to the Word Bank’s Logistics Performance Index. The sector, however, is experiencing significant transformations such as the rise of digitally enabled logistics services, and the emergence of new delivery capabilities (autonomous vehicles, 3D printing).

The Industry Transformation Map (ITM) will help Singaporean logistics keep its competitive edge in this rapidly evolving context, and aims to achieve a value-added of S$8.3billion (US$6 billion) by 2020. In particular, the ITM intends to strengthen innovation, productivity, as well as talent development across the logistics sector—including by leveraging trends such as artificial intelligence and collaborative robotics.

Five TED Talks that inspired me

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Jim Yong Kim speaks at TED2017. © Marla Aufmuth/TED
Jim Yong Kim speaks at TED2017. © Marla Aufmuth/TED

This April, I had the honor of delivering a TED Talk in Vancouver, Canada. TED Talks aim to inspire and spread ideas, and this year’s theme – The Future Us – explored what lies ahead for the world. 

Artificial intelligence, robotics, and other technological advances hold great promise, but these changes are coming at break-neck speed. I’m afraid many of us aren’t ready. There’s still too much poverty and inequality in the world, and we have a lot of work to provide opportunities for everyone. 

Campaign Art: Disruptive technologies and development goals

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Disruptive technologies are redefining the way of life. Everyone is buzzing about drones, driverless cars, autopilot planes, robots, and supply chains, starting from the entertainment industry, to agriculture and food sector, to private sector, to humanitarian and development fields. Drones delivering food, water, or health supplies, using off-grid power, innovative mobile apps, and other technological developments are all very exciting and unknown at the same time.

How will drones impact the supply chains and service delivery in the future? What are the opportunities and risks associated with utilizing drones to deliver supplies? What is the role of technology in helping us reach Sustainable Development Goals? I can’t pretend I have answers to any of these questions, nor do I dare predict what our future may look like in 10,20,30 years. However, it sure is interesting to look at the recent technological developments and try to understand what their role may be in the future.  

That’s where the unlikely and innovative story of Zipline International Inc. and the Government of Rwanda comes in. Last fall the Government of Rwanda partnered with the California-based robotics company Zipline International Inc. and became the first country in the world to incorporate drone technology into its health care system by delivering blood and medical supplies to 21 hospitals across Rwanda’s Southern and Western provinces.
 
Delivering blood

Source: Zipline

The skills that matter in the race between education and technology

Harry A. Patrinos's picture
Technology rapidly changes the workplace and the skills demanded, making current workers less employable. One approach is to think about the kind of work that technology cannot replace.
(Photo: Curt Carnemark / World Bank)
 


Depending on to whom you listen, automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) will either solve all our problems or end the human race. Sometime in the near future, machine intelligence is predicted to surpass human intelligence, a point in time known as “the singularity.” Whether the rise of the machines is an existential threat to mankind or not, I believe that there is a more mundane issue: robots are currently being used to automate production.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Recurring Storms: Food Insecurity, Political Instability, and Conflict
Center for Strategic and International Studies

Renewed and expanded international collaboration to anticipate and prepare for recurring storms of food insecurity is essential. Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Syria are examples that vividly underscore the explosiveness of situations in which people find themselves unable to get the food they want and need. The experiences of post-conflict countries highlight some critical issues that need to be prioritized in order to regain sustainable food security. Averting future storms will require the recognition that food security challenges will extend long beyond 2030, political leadership must be visibly committed to these issues, and actions to reduce fragmentation of effort will be critical.

World Radio Day
Dawn
RADIO remains the most dynamic and engaging mediums in the 21st century, offering new ways to interact and participate. This powerful communication tool and low-cost medium can reach the widest audience, including remote communities and vulnerable people such as the illiterate, the disabled, women, youth and the poor. Radio offers these communities a platform to intervene in public debate, irrespective of their educational level. It provides an opportunity to participate in policy and decision-making processes, and to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expression. The impact of radio is at different levels: it is an essential tool in times of disaster management as an effective medium to reach affected people when other means of communication are disrupted; it is a way of promoting gender equality by providing rural women access to knowledge and support; finally, it is inclusive, engaging youth in the media as catalysts of change.

Is this time really different? Will Automation kill off development?

Duncan Green's picture

Is this time really different? That’s the argument whenever people want to ignore the lessons of history (eg arguing that this particular financial bubble/commodity boom will never burst) and such claims usually merit a bucketload of scepticism. On the other hand (climate change, nuclear war) sometimes things really are different from everything that has gone before.

Which brings us to technology. Lots of musings are circulating about the rise of Artificial Intelligence, automation etc. Driverless cars will put millions of drivers out of work. Robots will kill off manufacturing jobs. Everything will change.

At the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab talks of ‘the fourth industrial revolution’. The bible is the Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies,  a 2014 book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Even President Obama has caught the bug, in a recent profile in the New Yorker

‘At some point, when the problem is not just Uber but driverless Uber, when radiologists are losing their jobs to A.I., then we’re going to have to figure out how do we maintain a cohesive society and a cohesive democracy in which productivity and wealth generation are not automatically linked to how many hours you put in, where the links between production and distribution are broken.’

Which all raises a whole series of questions – is it true? If so, is that a Good/Bad Thing and for whom? Much too substantial for a blog post, but here are a few thoughts and links.


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