Artificial Intelligence and the SDGs

Advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, have great potential to accelerate the progress of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 agenda, promoting changes towards a new model that involves sustainable development, with the focus on combating the inequality and injustice, ensuring the protection, restoration and promotion of the environment.

New technologies can benefit the lives of many people around the world. For example, they can improve food security, facilitate health care, access to education, or help local economies grow through access to new markets and forms of financing. This means reducing the digital divide between countries with low and high resources and within countries, so that everyone has equal access to the benefits of technological tools.

“Leave no one behind” is the motto of this agenda and the most recent expression of avoiding discrimination and bias in all stages of AI systems, but also orienting its objectives towards equality and justice. This is particularly relevant in relation to gender equity, which is one of UNESCO's priority objectives. Thus, in the publication of the year 2019 titled “I´d blush if I could” 1, (I would blush if I could) shows that today, women and girls are 25 percent less likely than men to know how to harness digital technology for basic purposes, four times less likely to know how to program computers, and 13 times less likely to apply for a technology patent. The existing data is unequivocal about the severity of the current gender gaps, particularly in relation to digital skills, most severe for older women, less educated, poor or living in rural areas and developing countries.

At a time when technology is organizing itself to make decisions of global importance and directing people's lives in profound and subtle ways, this imbalance deserves urgent attention, as well as those raised by the other SDGs.

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Contact: a.abella@unesco.org - Agustín Abella