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Belinda Biscoe from the University of Oklahoma highlighted the potential of AI in achieving the SDGs during her statement at the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference

As we progress towards the SDGs, understanding and harnessing the potential of AI has become increasingly important. AI technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to accelerate progress toward the SDGs by enhancing efficiency, innovation, and decision-making across various domains. From healthcare and education to environmental conservation and poverty alleviation, AI promises to unlock new solutions and pathways for sustainable development.

However, realizing the full potential of AI for sustainable development requires careful consideration of its social, economic, and environmental implications. Concerns such as algorithmic bias, data privacy, and job displacement underscore the need for ethical and responsible AI governance frameworks that prioritize human rights, equity, and sustainability, as underlined by BELINDA BISCOE, Senior Associate Vice President ar The University of Oklahoma.


“Thank you for that introduction. Good morning, esteemed colleagues and delegates. Today, I want to share what I am learning from others in various fields about harnessing AI in our collective journey toward achieving SDGs. 
One thing I want to say just as a side note, we all know that AI will impact all of our societies and all of our sectors. So, this year at the university, my leadership team and I, just at this 23rd Infopoverty World Conference, decided to make AI the focus of our annual day. We have a day that's similar to a State of the Union in the United States, except it goes all day. And we decided, too, to tackle the theme of AI for our college because we know that there are many benefits as well as challenges that will impact higher education.
And so in an era where technology shapes the fabric of our societies, AI emerges not just as a tool, but as a catalyst for sustainable and inclusive growth. The other thing I want to mention is the University of Oklahoma Outreach is a member of the UN Academic Impact, which many of you know is an initiative to align institutions of higher education, scholarship, and research with the UN and with each other. In the brief time that I have with you this morning, I've chosen to cite an area of global need and then say a little bit about what I'm learning from colleagues who are experts in those fields about how AI can address these, and more importantly, how that solution aligns with some of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.
So I'll start with these. Some of my colleagues prior to me have mentioned these, so it sounds like we're all on the same page. We know that globally healthcare accessibility and quality is a global issue. I think this aligns very well with Sustainable Development Goal 3 of the UN, which focuses on good health and well-being. So, what solutions will AI offer to address this sustainable development goal? What I am learning from other colleagues is that AI-powered platforms can enable remote diagnostics and consultations, making healthcare services accessible to remote and underserved areas. This technology can assist in detecting diseases early, monitoring health conditions, and providing expert consultations via the Internet. What other solution for this global issue of healthcare accessibility and quality can AI provide? I am told by my colleagues in the field that AI can analyze vast and voluminous amounts of health data to predict disease outbreaks, enabling early intervention strategies. For instance, predicting the spread of infectious diseases like malaria can save lives through more timely action.
One of the other global areas of need is education and learning. And for those of us who have been involved at all in any way with the UN, we know that education intersects with every sustainable development goal of the UN. And so as we think about the role of AI, education and learning, which is a global need, I think aligns very well with the sustainable development goal of quality education. So what are just a few examples of what AI can bring to the table for that? As an educator myself, personalized learning is the first thing that I think about. AI can tailor educational content to meet the individual learning needs and pace of students, addressing the challenge that many face of large, diverse classrooms where teachers may not be able to cater to individual needs effectively.
What are some of the other solutions that AI brings? One of my partners joining me here today, World Wide Tech Connections is demonstrating new language translation and communication technologies for today’s conference. You can scan the code on the forms you received to hear or stream today’s conference in your native language. This code can be scanned to bring forth languages from around the globe. If people wanted, for example, to listen or to see the written text in a language other than English, which I am speaking. And so when we think about language learning, AI-powered language tools can help break down language barriers, providing access to global knowledge and opportunities for personal and professional development.
Another world or global issue, and one of my colleagues earlier mentioned is, agricultural productivity. I think this aligns extraordinarily well with SDG 2, which is zero hunger. AI technologies, my colleagues are telling me, can analyze data from satellite images, weather forecasts, and sensors in the field to provide farmers with precise information about when to plant, irrigate, and harvest crops. The benefit of that is that this can significantly increase agricultural productivity and sustainability. I'm just going to mention a few other examples so that other speakers can jump in.
Also, another big global need is economic development. I think that this aligns well with Sustainable Development Goal 8, focusing on decent work and economic growth. As our chair mentioned, this means all women, men, those with disabilities, and every group that we can imagine has an opportunity for decent work and economic growth. So what can and how can AI impact that issue of economic development? AI, I'm told by those in the field of economics, can enable more inclusive financial services through things such as mobile banking, and microfinance platforms, helping individuals in undeveloped countries gain access to credit, savings, and insurance products. 
There's also support for SDG 9, which focuses on industry, innovation, and infrastructure. AI-driven platforms facilitating market access and smart infrastructure and planning are key to building resilient infrastructure and promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization. Also, as I bring this to a close, I want to say that regardless of the sector we find ourselves in, we know, and previous speakers mentioned this, that AI will bring both many benefits and many challenges.
And so while the potential of AI to support human well-being in underdeveloped countries is significant, there are also challenges to consider. And I want to cite just a few of those before closing. The first that's been mentioned is the digital divide. We know that SDG 10 focuses on reducing inequalities. Consequently, we must ensure that we provide equal and equitable access to AI technologies and the internet so that AI does not exacerbate inequalities, but actually helps us to reduce these inequalities within and among countries. Another challenge is data privacy and security. This aligns well with SDG 16, peace, justice, and strong institutions. So in the process, we must also ensure that we are protecting individuals' data and ensuring that AI applications do not infringe on privacy rights. Under SDG16, we are talking about peaceful societies and effective, in the operative word there, accountable institutions. 
Another challenge is ethical and fair use. And SDG17, focusing on partnerships for the goals, which is all about emphasizing collaborative efforts to address challenges and make AI technologies accessible and beneficial for all. I always like to say there is no I in a team. And there's an old African proverb that many of you have probably heard: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together". It is going to take all of us working together to address these challenges collaboratively. This will involve governments, NGOs, the private sector, and communities. This is the only way I feel that we can ensure that AI technologies are accessible, inclusive, and beneficial to all.


The FINAL DECLARATION of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference is now available! The Plan of Action including a list of projects and proposals that emerged from the discussion will be available soon. STAY TUNED!

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