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How AI Can Help with International Development

Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be used in all facets of our lives.  While it will have astounding impacts in the richest countries, it also has the potential to help poorer countries leapfrog technologies and jump straight to some of the most advanced tools available.

While the possibilities are endless, let’s look at a few examples of where AI might be most useful in helping low and middle-income countries:

Agriculture – AI can help farmers by analyzing weather patterns to tell them how to water crops more efficiently, and when to harvest. It can help farmers get better prices by making market data more freely available, and optimizing logistics chains. It can even help researchers create new versions of crops that are drought-resistant or more nutrient-rich. 

Health Care – Many developing countries have insufficient doctor’s offices, especially in rural areas. AI can help diagnose diseases, analyze test results more efficiently, and scan x-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans to find anomalies. It can also help predict who is at risk of heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and mental health issues based on family and personal histories, test results, and even the way people speak. 

Education – When students have access to computers or smartphones, AI can help transform the education system. It can allow students to learn at their own pace, providing personalized lessons based on where the student needs more focus. It can help teachers understand which students are struggling, and in what areas. AI can also help parents get real-time data about their child’s progress, and recommend at-home interventions. 

Energy – AI will help to generate more energy from existing systems by analyzing, optimizing, and better-matching production to usage. It can also help companies and families with energy conservation by recommending, or scheduling optimal times for high-energy activities. Likewise, smart thermostats, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and automated logistics will all use AI to decrease energy consumption.

Disaster Response – Using satellite and weather data, countries will be able to better predict disasters. Using social media feeds, automated drone footage, and other data, responders will have faster data to better understand the scope and scale of a disaster. This will lead to a swifter and more appropriate response, more prepared first responders, and will help minimize death and discomfort.

Any other areas?  Of course, AI will also help countries in other areas including traffic optimization, pollution reduction, more efficient factories, improved public services, corruption reduction, streamlining bureaucratic processes, and a host of other areas.

But beware of the risks…

Although AI will improve lives in myriad ways, there are many risks in how AI may be used. It is already being used to track individuals both online and offline, it can scan digital data such as social media and use the results for political persecution. AI is getting better at propaganda creation, automated weaponry, and automated discrimination and redlining. As it develops, it will be used for a host of other potential abuses.

At Forum One, we’ve used AI to help Federal agencies optimize and improve processes. If you want to discuss the possibilities for using AI for international development, please reach out to me. We would love to explore ideas with you.

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