Round Table

Forum on Artificial Intelligence

Dushanbe, Tajikistan

17 August 2021, 9:00 a.m.

 

Excellency Mr. Sherali Kabir, Minister of Industry and New Technologies of Tajikistan

 

Distinguished Partners, Entrepreneurs, Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

Thank you for inviting me to share UNDP perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and its potential for sustainable development and social good in Tajikistan.

UNDP promotes all ideas and approaches that helps in expanding people’s choices, capabilities and their access to opportunities. It is now widely accepted that ICT and AI can enable developing countries to leapfrog their efforts to reduce inequality, promote sustainable economic growth and achieve SDGs. The potential of AI to bring large scale improvements and transformational changes in health, agriculture and education by accelerating innovation and enterprise creation, delivering government services to citizens even in remote areas and reducing the cost of public service delivery, as we are seeing in the on-going COIVD crisis and lock downs across the world.  In agriculture, climate change risk mitigation, desertification, droughts and floods are negatively impacting productivity, AI solutions can help in crop and land use optimization and precision farming. AI innovation has also begun to reinvent manufacturing and supply chain operations with advances in automation leading to shorter production timelines and demand driven production. In many developing countries with relatively low medical capacity, AI for healthcare can offer digital health services such as diagnosis, treatment and patient and public health management to more people than can be serviced by existing healthcare systems. 

I would like to commend the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies for their visionary leadership in promoting the use of artificial intelligence alongside a series of other technologies that are shaking our world at every level. Establishment of National Council on Artificial Intelligence is a significant step forward to prepare a vision and strategy and I am also very pleased to see that the Government is partnering with private sector, public institutions and innovative initiatives launched by talented young men and women such as the Tajrupt.

The modern economy is all about creativity, innovations, smart use of technology, online communication and social media.

Globally, UNDP is promoting sustainable human development through innovations, creative solutions, partnerships and capacity development in more than 170 countries. In 2019, UNDP launched its digital strategy for 2019–2021, which includes artificial intelligence as a prominent aspect and has launched several global initiatives to promote application of AI, for instance, UNDP has established SDG AI Lab to promote research and advisory support to governments and other partners through cutting-edge digital solutions in harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) for sustainable development.

In 2019, UNDP built the world’s largest and fastest learning network on sustainable development challenges called UNDP Acceleration Labs, there are now 91 Labs covering 115 countries, to model new capability for breakthroughs in reducing inequality, accelerating decarbonization, promoting new forms of governance and seizing the opportunity of 4th industrial revolution wave.

For example, Drones and remote sensing are being used to improve data collection and inform decisions such as in the Maldives for disaster preparedness and in Uganda to engage refugee and host communities in jointly developing infrastructure.

UNDP and UNEP have jointly launched UN Biodiversity Lab, powered by MapX, this spatial big data platform will help countries support conservation efforts and accelerate delivery of the 2030 Agenda. UNDP is partnering with IBM to automate  UNDP’s Rapid Integrated Assessment methodology to help align national development plans and sectoral strategies with the SDGs; The Al based algorithm has been tested to evaluate the national development plans of some pilot countries such as Bhutan, Cambodia, Namibia and results indicate its potential to help countries quickly identify gaps and better integrate the SDGs into national planning and budgeting based on specific context and priorities. This can be a very useful tool for Tajikistan as the Government has recently adopted the new Mid-term Development Program for 2021-2025, UNDP can offer its global experience to help in further alignment of development plans with SDGs.

AI and machine learning for sustainable development requires relevant human capacities of advanced skills in digital programming and management of IT. In Tajikistan, UNDP is supporting many partners such as TajRupt, Ilmhona, Alif Academy, IT Run and others to build digital skills of young women and men.

To respond to COVID19 impact, UNDP has launched a financial facility called InnoResponse Challenge to promote Innovative solutions to social and economic problems faced by people and businesses. One of the projects supported through Innoresponse is our joint initiative with TajRupt to educate 300 active youth in Bobojon Gafurov, Isfara, Jabbor Rasulov, Konibodom and Asht districts of Sughd region and help young people to launch income-generating English tutoring activities and today 91 rural students are already engaged in tutoring.

In addition, UNDP is covering learning fees of some talented young people from low income families to do the course work offered by Tajrupt’s “AI Academy” in statistics, programming, and machine learning, and I am very pleased to note that  10 Machine Learning engineers from Khujand, Asht, Konibodom and Panjakent have finished the AI Academy course and have secured paid internship and full-time employment at major leading companies like Livо, Tcell, Imon International, Arvand, Babilon in Sughd.  

It is only the beginning of our efforts to promote use of AI for social good in Tajikistan. We aim to build on these current pilots and research together with the Ministry of Industrial and New Technologies, and other partners to create opportunities to apply new technologies for sustainable development in the country.

There is tremendous potential for growth and expansion but while application of advanced technologies can be for tremendous social and collective good, its unethical use can also have negative consequences. A comprehensive and responsible policy and an enabling environment to implement the policy is needed. Some dimensions of a responsible policy are :

1. Compatibility with human agency and human rights, such as freedom, non-discrimination, etc.

2.Governance framework based on principles of ethics and integrity; accountability and  transparency and a regulatory framework for oversight of use AI to safeguard citizens from negative and unintended consequences.   

3.Education and Skills: ensuring all girls and boys are equipped with required skill set with life-long learning opportunities and adults are reskilled so they can embrace new technology and new jobs. This is important for sharing benefit of technology and AI more broadly, particularly among marginalized and people living in remote areas.  

4. Assessment of AI impact on political, social and environment so as to mitigate any negative consequence.

5. Incorporate multilateral mechanisms and international standards for ethics, cyber safety and arbitration.  

UNDP is committed to supporting Tajikistan in promoting AI and preparing AI policy with research, technical assistance, international best practices, connect you with AI networks and facilitate experience sharing. 

 

Thank you ! 

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