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The Promise of AI in the Developing World
By Tej Kohli  |  Jun 30, 2021
The Promise of AI in the Developing World
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While access to the latest technology can deepen global inequality, it also has the potential to mitigate it. Around the world, artificial intelligence is already transforming developing countries, and yet the world is just scratching the surface of what it can do for human progress. To harness AI’s full power to advance development will require finding new ways to apply it.

LONDON - A common misperception among observers of digital trends is that consumers in developing countries do not benefit from advances in technology. Whether it is owning the latest smartphone or employing robot cleaners, the ability to access innovation is one of the most visible differences between rich and poor countries.

This gap has become even more pronounced since the advent of artificial intelligence (AI). For example, the vast majority of home smart speaker personal assistants, like Amazon’s Alexa, are shipped to wealthy countries. Over 80 percent of global smart speaker shipments were to North America in 2017.

Technology can deepen global inequality, but also holds the potential to mitigate it. This is because AI can do much more than power appliances. It can revolutionize the way healthcare, disaster relief, finance, logistics, education, and business services are delivered in the Global South.

AI is already transforming developing countries. In Nepal, machine learning (ML) is mapping and analyzing post-earthquake reconstruction needs. AI tutors across Africa help young students catch up on coursework. Humanitarian aid agencies use Big Data analytics to optimize the delivery of supplies for refugees fleeing conflict and other hardships. In my country, India, rural farmers use AI applications to improve crop yields and boost profits.

Innovations like these bring achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on issues like eradicating poverty, ending

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