AI is transforming the UN’s approach to global development

Grete Faremo, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project ServicesForbes reported on DWS 2018 and the many discussions during the event on the impact that Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as Amelia are having and will have on the world. The enterprise space has been animated by AI’s potential to add business value through the automation of processes all along the value chain, whether physical, transactional or increasingly, cognitive. While AI has business leaders reimagining how a modern enterprise can operate, the potential impact on global development might be just as substantial.

A tool for transformation

DWS 2018 attracted experts from a wide spectrum of backgrounds to discuss the current and future effects of AI. Taking center stage was IPsoft’s digital colleague Amelia, who some visitors had a chance to interact directly with at our new AI laboratory Amelia City. “Seeing [Amelia in] action during live demonstration,” the author Roger Aitken wrote, “was something – responding to human queries within only slightly more time than a blink of an eye via text or voice.”

The commentary mentioned several examples where Amelia is already making a business impact, including implementations with the Japanese ICT firm NTT Communications (where she is known at “COTOHA”) and Spanish bank BBVA. Beyond companies’ bottom lines, Forbes highlighted discussions from DWS about how these technologies will benefit workers, noting “[research firm] Gartner’s prognosis has suggested that starting in 2020, AI-related job creation will ‘cross into positive territory’ and reach two million net-new jobs in 2025.”

Seeing [Amelia in] action during live demonstration was something — responding to human queries within only slightly more time than a blink of an eye via text or voice.

— Roger Aitken, Forbes

Besides discussions around AI’s use within vertical industries, AI’s potential for the developing world was highlighted in a presentation at DWS by Grete Faremo, the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

The Forbes piece noted how Faremo’s team is excited about the potential of “frontier technologies” such as Amelia to support their work. In 2015, the UN laid out 17 sustainable development goals, including 169 targets the group hopes to address by 2030. This ambitious agenda will require billions (if not trillions) of dollars in investments to overcome by using current technology. “This is why we are looking closely at the opportunities and challenges,” Faremo said. And this, she went on to explain, is where the disruptive power of AI might prove most impactful.

“Standing here today from the UN, when I hear others talk, I immediately jump to the role AI could play to help accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Faremo told the DWS audience. “This is my focus. And it should be yours too.”

In addition to empowering developing communities to help themselves with the help of cognitive assistants, the piece noted Faremo’s optimism that AI will also be a powerful tool for collecting and processing data. Specifically, she noted how the UN could these technologies can predict the path of storms and track the spread of diseases, both of which acutely affect developing communities.

“Whatever AI tools governments, policymakers and humanitarian organizations use,” Faremo noted, “it’s important to use them where they’ll do the most good.”

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