The role of AI in achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals

by Maria Axente Artificial Intelligence Programme Driver and AI for Good Lead

AI can play a key role in reaching global Sustainable Development Goals, here’s how:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is on target to have a profound impact on humanity. PwC’s Sizing the Prize report shows just how big a game changer AI is likely to become, potentially contributing US$15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, the same deadline the United Nations (UN) have set for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Now is the time to lay the foundations to harness AI’s potential and mitigate its potential risks. Now is the time to use this technology to benefit our society and planet.

At PwC, we have comprehensive expertise in the development and application of AI solutions for specific business problems and a deep understanding of the SDGs in a business context. Our tools and propositions in the AI and SDG space are contributing to the mission of AI for Good, by empowering businesses to make a positive impact on society and the planet.

Based on our learnings from AI for Earth initiatives and our industry expertise, we’ve identified three key factors that will contribute to sustainable and long term results in implementing the technology in solving social, economical and environmental problems.

1. Identify and tackle SDGs that are particularly relevant for your business

It’s important to be able to identify global goals which your business most affects, and that the organisation would most like to tackle. Those initiatives can then be aligned with the UN’s SDGs framework. Finding tech solutions to SDG challenges is critical to accelerating the response and creating positive returns across the ‘tech for good’ agenda. It is also important to not only include an impact assessment (economic, social, environmental), but to align initiatives with SDG taxonomy and roadmaps. Moreover, assessing the size of the AI opportunity and which techniques to deploy is also important, as it is the broader external context. Responsible AI, therefore, should not only incorporate the attributes of fairness, accountability, safety, transparency, but also find a way to maximise benefits, manage potential risks, and work holistically for people and the planet.

2. Government Strategy

It’s paramount to have a robust and end-to-end governance system from strategy through to execution. Appropriate governance for AI (policies, processes and standard), enable organisations large or small to be in control of their AI. Adapting and adopting robust governance frameworks from the business world in the social sector means that AI development can be safely implemented. This will allow organisations to deliver AI systems in a responsible manner, and at scale. The Responsible AI toolkit was designed to assist all types of organisations in developing and deploying ethical and responsible AI solutions (AIS) across three categories and five dimensions, ranging from ethics and regulation, to governance.

3. Strong Global Partnerships

Achieving the UN’s SDGs with AI can can only be realised by 2030 by committing strongly to global partnerships collaboration and cooperation. In fact, goal 17, ‘Partnerships for the goals’ stresses that multi-stakeholder partnerships are essential to engendering and sharing knowledge, expertise, technology, data and relationships, to achieve the goals across the globe.

This week is World AI Week. We’re helping to ‘drive forward the implementation of AI in business’ to solve society’s most important problems. Learn more about how AI at PwC can accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

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