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Remy Sietchiping, UN-HABITAT, on the importance of AI for urban development, at the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference

Artificial Intelligence has transformative potential for urban development and human well-being at large. However, the impeccable implementation of AI is a complex challenge that requires comprehensive consideration of ethics and inclusive governance to achieve a city forum.


Ethics in AI pertains to ensuring that the technology aligns with broadly accepted societal norms and values. Urban actors should prioritize the governance of AI and embed ethics in AI implementations.


The ultimate goal should be fostering equitable cities, spaces where citizens have equal access to and benefit from public services and infrastructural gains catalyzed by AI, as recalled by REMY SIETCHIPING, Chief of the Policy, Legislation and Governance Section at UN-Habitat, in his intervention during the First Session of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference


READ THE FULL STATEMENT BELOW!

My name is Remy Sietchiping from UN-Habitat headquarters in Nairobi, and I'm in charge of Policy, Legislation, and Governance. I'm pleased to contribute to this conference. As an agency working on urban development, UN-Habitat recognizes how Artificial Intelligence has transformative potential for urban development and human well-being at large. Its effective utilization can, for instance, streamline city planning, simplify traffic management, and enhance efficiency in public service operations. However, the impeccable implementation of AI is a complex challenge that requires comprehensive consideration of ethics and inclusive governance to achieve a city forum.
Ethics in AI pertains to ensuring that the technology aligns with broadly accepted societal norms and values. These ideals include respecting privacy rights, ensuring inclusivity, and transparency of the AI decision-making process, and optimizing AI for the benefit of all citizens, not just a selected few. This consideration becomes increasingly paramount as AI becomes more diverse, involving substantial data on places, individuals, and communities. I believe urban actors should prioritize the governance of AI and embed ethics in AI implementations. The ultimate goal should be fostering equitable cities, spaces where citizens have equal access to and benefit from public services and infrastructural gains catalyzed by AI.
Achieving this requires framing ethical guidelines that prevent instances of discrimination, biases, or inequality in AI applications. The lack of demographic representation in data sets, which form the crux of AI algorithms, can provide opportunities for bias in AI outcomes. In addition, we cannot underestimate the digital divide around gender, race, age, and so forth in AI implementation. A policy that recognizes representation would mitigate this, ensuring AI decisions are equitable and do not disproportionately affect any group or place. In doing so, we will engage with an AI that leaves no one and no place behind. Similarly, transparent regulations could help citizens understand the functioning of AI systems, contributing to building trust in these technologies. Balancing AI efficiency with privacy protection is another critical ethical and governance challenge.
Urban dwellers should have a say in what personal data is used and how it contributes to the development of their cities. As such, governments need to develop policies ensuring informed consent, strictly regulated data collection and use, and implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect citizens' data and security. Establishing clear lines of accountability for AI outcomes by all stakeholders can also ensure ethical deployment. If an AI-driven system makes a decision that harms an individual or community, it should be clear who bears the responsibility. The AI developers, the city authority, or third-party organizations are involved in that AI deployment. Equally, if an AI-driven system leads to a positive change, and a better quality of life for citizens, then the responsible players need to be recognized and awarded.
Lastly, fostering inclusivity and participation in urban AI deployment is crucial. Beyond deploying AI systems that benefit all citizens, participatory governance mechanisms should incorporate citizen voices in AI decision-making processes. In conclusion, the ethical and transparent use of AI can significantly contribute to establishing equitable cities that benefit all citizens. It involves formulating clear ethical guidelines, ensuring transparency and accountability, implementing robust privacy protection measures, and fostering inclusivity. The collaborative involvement of multiple stakeholders, including urban dwellers, is critical to governance efforts to achieve decisions. Artificial intelligence, when harmoniously embedded in urban ecosystems, can help cities become more vibrant, inclusive, and truly smart. I thank you for your kind attention.”

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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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