The Founding Director of the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) was a panelist at the annual Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Good Global Summit at the International Telecommunications Union headquarters (ITU) from May 15 to 17.
The AI for Good series is the leading United Nations (UN) platform for examining the potential of AI applications to help fulfill the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an initiative that aims to improve the quality and sustainability of life on earth in the shape of 17 goals related to people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership – commonly known as sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Government officials, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, academics, AI practitioners, industry leaders and humanitarian executives from around the world took part in discussions within the conference on the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence in solving global challenges.
Rizk participated in a panel discussion entitled “Data for Good.” Bringing an Egyptian perspective to global discussions, she drew on A2K4D’s interdisciplinary research to explore how AI can offer solutions to global development challenges.
She gave examples from A2K4D and partners’ work on open data, which A2K4D leads through its position as the Middle East and North Africa node of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) network as well as its status as the North African hub of the Open African Innovation Research Network (Open AIR). Rizk also cited empirical research conducted at the center on devising alternate measures of knowledge and innovation in Africa.
During her talk, she argued that while opportunities for technological innovation brought by big data are infinite, inequality in ownership and access to data prevails, particularly in the Global South.
“Not only should we be aware of the challenges and mitigate them, but [we should] also be proactive and make the gaps smaller,” she urged.
In addition to inequalities in ownership and access to data, local and organic data are, in her mind, either unavailable, restricted to big companies and governments, filtered or not sufficient enough to provide adequate material for AI applications. Rizk argued that in order to best utilize AI for social good, the technology has to be contextualized in order to respond to local needs.
She reiterated that, "One of the challenges that are found in many parts of the world is an asymmetry between, on one hand, promoting economic freedom and data-driven innovation and, on the other hand, curbing civil liberties."