Fighting Poverty With AIFrom identifying the best ways to improve agriculture, finance and education in impoverished areas, to finding those who need help the most through satellite images, fighting poverty with AI is becoming a common practice. Although the idea of using artificial intelligence to address such sensitive issues can be unsettling for some, the technology has delivered some remarkable benefits.

Identifying Poverty

According to a Big Cloud article, identifying poverty is an important first step in addressing it. AI technology can identify the direst of situations, thereby enabling poverty-relief programs to provide aid swiftly, efficiently and effectively. The technology also helps identify the primary causes of poverty in different regions. Factors such as war, a lack of resources and political instability all represent some of the causes of poverty. Each of these situations has different solutions. This means that war-induced poverty should have a different solution from poverty that’s a result of a lack of resources. And AI can facilitate the identification of root causes and appropriate alleviatory measures.


Numerous challenges hinder agricultural work, posing obstacles for farmers worldwide, especially those relying on their yields for sustenance and livelihood. Beyond mere survival, food plays a vital role in employment and personal advancement. The advent of AI not only enhances agricultural practices but also contributes to the fight against poverty.

While farmers in developed nations have access to information on innovative farming techniques and impending natural disasters, their counterparts in developing countries struggle to obtain such resources. Here, AI can offer valuable assistance. One of its key contributions is providing farmers with crucial insights on optimal fertilizers and crops tailored to their specific regions. Additionally, AI enables swift detection of contamination and crop diseases, surpassing the capabilities of traditional farming methods. Consequently, farmers can salvage a greater portion of their yields.

Finance and Education

Employment and education equality are crucial factors that directly impact individuals’ vulnerability to extreme poverty. The use of AI to address these issues holds the potential to aid organizations and governments in the fight against poverty. With the increasing reliance on the internet and AI in finance and education, leveraging these tools becomes more feasible to eliminate inequalities in these domains, as highlighted by Big Cloud. While the idea of AI teachers may evoke apprehension, it also presents exciting possibilities. An AI teacher or a teacher assisted by AI can personalize education based on a student’s needs and abilities.

AI can also create new financial opportunities for impoverished communities worldwide. In developed nations, both employers and job seekers already utilize AI algorithms, and these technologies can effectively strengthen job markets. Additionally, AI has the potential to assist impoverished families in establishing robust credit scores. By prioritizing essential data for families and lenders, AI can facilitate the identification of loans that best suit individuals’ needs, enabling those in dire need to improve their quality of life.

Satellites and AI

AI also works in tandem with other technological solutions to fight poverty. For example, Stanford University scholars used satellite images from throughout sub-Saharan Africa to predict poverty in various regions. Nighttime images of electric lights and daytime images of infrastructure like roads and agriculture were used as indicators of a region’s wealth.

When an algorithm used these images to make these poverty predictions, the level of accuracy was between 81% and 99%, as reported by Big Cloud. Burke and his team suggest that anti-poverty programs and NGOs could use this technology to better understand the most effective ways to fight poverty.

Looking Ahead

AI is proving to be a powerful tool, enabling swift identification of those in need and the root causes of poverty. The technology holds the potential to promote employment and education equality, creating new financial opportunities and personalized learning experiences. Its various applications and capabilities in fighting poverty suggest that it can be a vital tool in the exploration and implementation of initiatives that can improve living conditions for all.

– Christina Albrecht
Photo: Flickr

The Workforce
As immense as a tsunami, the wave of artificial intelligence has already started creeping toward the shores of innovation, promising to change the way society lives, works and interacts with each other. AI is no longer a futuristic concept; it is a reality that is already transforming industries and societies around the world. Despite the potential benefits, AI also poses a considerable threat to the workforce. With estimates suggesting that nearly 15% of jobs worldwide could be vulnerable to displacement due to automation, the implications of AI for the future of work are profound and far-reaching.

The Rise of AI

All over the globe, artificial intelligence and AI have begun to permeate the everyday life of people. This technology has already transformed the way people engage with the world around them, from personal gadgets like smartphones and virtual assistants to large-scale systems like transportation networks and financial institutions. And as this demand grows, the technology itself also continues to evolve. One study by NVIDIA found that over the past 18 months, the performance gains of their A100 GPUs have increased by a factor of almost five. This unprecedented speed and scale provide a glimpse into the potential applications of these technologies in the future.

Impact on Jobs

As AI technology advance and becomes more prevalent, it brings with it a slew of potential issues, the most common of which is job displacement. According to a Zippia report, countries such as Greece and Slovakia in Europe face a risk of losing more than 50% of their jobs due to computerization. Occupations in data entry, manufacturing, machining, customer service, labor and inventory management are particularly at risk, as these are areas where AI and automation are most likely to have a significant impact.

Low-income Families

These changes are likely to have the most consequential influence on low-income households and regions. Many low-income families rely on low-skill jobs as their only source of income. Unfortunately, the AI industry could displace 50% of these jobs over the next 5 years. As machines become more prevalent in the workplace, the demand for low-skilled workers may continue to decrease, leading to a potential reduction in wages and benefits.

Possible Intervention Efforts

Fortunately, there are a number of steps that can help protect or transition the workforce in the age of AI. Some of these steps could involve investing in skilled-training programs and implementing protection periods for workers who face exposure to job loss due to AI. For instance, the fund-based “SkillsFuture” program that Singapore introduced in 2015 has already achieved measurable success.

The program’s more than 660,000 beneficiaries, including those who received the $500 credit and benefited from the training and professional assistance programs were able to easily transition into and out of the workforce as new technologies underwent development. In Canada, a similar program, “Future Skills Centre,” has also emerged. Through this program, more than 36,000 participants from more than 20 different economic sectors were able to receive practical professional training to help them get ready for and adjust to the changing workplace.

Looking Ahead

In the face of AI’s potential impact on jobs, there are promising interventions that can help mitigate its effects. Investments in skilled-training programs and the implementation of protection periods for at-risk workers can provide crucial support during the transition. Successful initiatives like Singapore’s “SkillsFuture” and Canada’s “Future Skills Centre” demonstrate the effectiveness of such measures in equipping individuals with the necessary skills to navigate the changing landscape of work. With proactive efforts and inclusive policies, societies can embrace the opportunities presented by AI while safeguarding the well-being of their workforce.

– Sanjith Sambath
Photo: Flickr

AI In International DevelopmentThe launch of ChatGPT and other language models is only the latest evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While so much focus is on how AI is reshaping education and the workplace, its impacts go much further. These and other emerging AI applications promise to reshape the world, but more attention is necessary to understand how to best use AI in international development and understand the consequences of using it. AI has the capability to support development programs. It also shows great potential in fostering positive outcomes in health, inclusive governance, economic growth and building environmental safeguards.

The Benefits of Using AI for International Development

The key ways AI can aid international development objectives include the following:

  • Data Analysis: AI technology can analyze vast amounts of data from various sources, including census, surveys and social media, to identify patterns and trends in poverty rates, income inequality and access to basic services. This helps governments make informed decisions and allocate resources more effectively to address poverty.
  • Predictive Modeling & Early Warning Systems: AI can help create predictive models that forecast future poverty rates and identify high-risk populations. It can do similar analyses to predict and serve as early warnings for disasters. This comes with the upside of enabling governments to anticipate and prepare for future challenges and develop targeted interventions.
  • Decision Support Systems: AI can help develop decision support systems that provide real-time information to policymakers on the impact of various policy options. This could help governments make more informed decisions and identify the most effective policy interventions.
  • Digital Financial Inclusion: AI technology can assist to develop digital financial services such as mobile banking and microfinance to provide financial services to underserved populations. This can potentially facilitate poverty alleviation by providing access to credit, savings and insurance to those who may not have had access before.
  • Precision Agriculture: AI also has applications in agriculture where it helps to optimize crop yields, reduce wastage and increase food security. This can help farmers in developing countries to boost income and reduce poverty by increasing productivity and profitability.
  • Supporting Low-Carbon Systems: AI systems could help cities efficiently use resources and enable smart and low-carbon cities and support circular economies that use a broad range of AI tech such as electric cars, smart appliances and smart grids.

Achieving Development Objectives with AI

The aforementioned applications are not hypothetical as governments have already begun using AI tools to achieve development objectives. Some of such achievements are as follows:

  • Health Care Improvements: The government of Rwanda is using AI to deliver medical supplies to remote areas through drones with the help of Zipline Inc. In India, the government launched Aarogya Setu, an AI-based platform to track and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The platform uses AI to collect data on COVID-19 cases and also provide real-time information to citizens.
  • Reporting Violence: In Bangladesh, AI tools have been used to track media reports of violence against women by creating a visualization, emphasizing different and specific cases of gender-based assault.
  • Monitoring Protected Habitats: Private industries like Rainforest Connection are using AI to work with governments in monitoring protected habitats. Rainforest Connection uses AI to recognize patterns of activity related to poaching, including alerts for trucks, cars and motorcycles that poachers use in key protected areas.

The Drawbacks

While AI has the potential to improve many aspects of society, there are also issues that raise concerns. Some of such issues include:

  • Bias and Fairness: AI systems are only as good as the data they are trained on and if the data contains biases, the system will reproduce those biases. This could lead to unfair and discriminatory outcomes, particularly for marginalized groups.
  • Ethical Considerations: There are ethical questions around the use of AI, particularly around issues of privacy and consent, according to a USAID report. For example, collecting and using personal data to deliver aid could be an invasion of privacy, particularly in contexts where there are weak data protection laws.
  • Technical Limitations: AI systems are not a silver bullet for poverty reduction and there are limits to what they can do. For example, they may struggle to deal with complex social and cultural contexts or to address the root causes of poverty.
  • Cost and Access: AI technology can be expensive to develop and deploy, and this can limit its use in low-income countries. There may also be issues around access, particularly in areas with poor internet connectivity or limited technical expertise.
  • Accountability and Transparency: There are concerns around the accountability and transparency of AI systems, particularly if using such systems to make decisions about resource allocation or service provision. It may be difficult to understand how the system arrived at a particular decision and to challenge that decision if it is incorrect or unfair.

What is Next?

AI has the power to foster progress by enabling the achievement of long-sought development goals, but it can just as easily be a catalyst for creating further inequality and conflict and strengthening authoritarian governments. This suggests that increased international cooperation and regulation are necessary to curb or control the negative externalities of AI development.

– Andrew Giganti
Photo: Unsplash

Fetal MonitoringThe appeal of artificial intelligence has skyrocketed in recent years – with its impressive ability to mimic human intelligence and grow smarter with each interaction.

AI has seen a particular rise in the technology sector with Elon Musk’s self driving Tesla vehicles and programs such as ChatGPT, which boasts its conversations can sound human-like.

Now, with the help of PeriGen, Inc, Baylor College of Medicine and the Area 25 Community Hospital, artificial intelligence has developed a new skill: saving lives with AI-powered fetal monitoring.

Malawians Need Change in Prenatal Health Care

One in every 200 Malawian women dies when delivering a baby, and 2-6% of babies die during delivery both inside and outside of the womb. This is said to be due to a low nurse-to-patient ratio, with midwives struggling to continuously monitor babies within the womb and manage full labor wards.

The nurse-to-patient ratio within Malawi was, as of 2015, just one third of the WHO’s recommended 10 nurses for every 10,000 people. In the same 2015 study, Malawian nurses cited a lack of resources and high workloads as a challenge.

Malawi and other developing countries often do not have access to scanning technology and rely on physical methods of monitoring development, such as physical examination. This can sometimes give incorrect measurements. If these measurements are incorrect and a baby is not developing correctly, this increases the risk of stillbirth or neonatal death.

With the help of AI, however, these struggles may become a thing of the past.

Fetal Monitoring Results in Decreased Stillbirths

PeriGen’s fetal monitoring software continuously scans vitals and notifies clinicians immediately if there is any change in the patterns. This allows for timely treatment. In addition to giving details on labor progression, it monitors vitals for both mother and child.

The software tracks hundreds of patients at a time, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Currently in place in the Area 25 Community Hospital in Malawi, the monitoring works by capturing patient data at the bedside, and then transmitting this data to PeriGen’s Houston headquarters. There, it is assessed before being transferred back to Malawi in an instant. PeriGen’s software allows for care to extend across many hospital sites at once, and reaches many patients.

Results of the software appear promising. Head nurse at the hospital, Dziwenji Makombe, says that the AI monitoring tool is “the best … strategy” to prevent stillbirths. The hospital saw a 75% reduction in stillbirths and early neonatal deaths.

There is hope that this software can be used across other developing countries with similarly promising results. Not only will this fetal monitoring tool reduce neonatal deaths, but it will help to decrease poverty.

When people live in areas where child mortality rates are low and the child can survive, they have fewer children. Less overpopulation means less poverty.

If this software continues to be effective, it will become a beacon of hope to other developing countries besides Malawi. It can save the lives of newborn children and expectant mothers residing there.

– Chloe Jenkins
Photo: Flickr

Poverty With AI
With the rapid emergence of widely accessible Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots, such as Chat GPT, it is getting easier for small organizations to leverage the power of AI in everyday use as technology becomes less expensive. Charities can now take advantage of the accessibility of AI to greatly benefit philanthropy and fundraising to effectively carry out their roles and aid in the fight against global poverty.

Fighting Poverty with AI

Artificial Intelligence has already helped combat global poverty around the world. The founding director of the Sandford Poverty & Technology Lab, Elisabeth Mason, says that technology and the emergence of AI “puts us in a better position to solve issues we’ve never been able to solve.” While Mason claims that technology alone may not be able to fully eliminate poverty, the involvement of other factors such as low education levels, lack of workplace skills and unaffordable food and resources could help the world fight poverty with AI.

Some researchers are using AI to track impoverished zones most in need. One impactful example of how AI has helped combat global poverty is in 2020, when Marshall Burke, David Lobell and Stefano Ermon led a team of researchers at Stanford to develop a powerful tool that uses AI to track the development of poverty levels across villages in Africa. They managed to achieve this by combining AI with satellite imagery that is both free and accessible to the public, which allowed them to be able to predict poverty in these areas with an accuracy between 81% and 99%.

Another way scientists have integrated AI into techniques for combating poverty is by improving agriculture. According to the World Bank, almost 65% of working adults living in poverty rely on agriculture, as there is an intricate link between global poverty and agriculture. Sending aid and resources can only do so much for helping the world’s poor, and thus it is vital to invest in the agriculture sector to give farmers a way to elevate their financial status, as investments in the agricultural sector produce four times more effective results in poverty reduction than any other economic sector.

Agricultural development is a powerful poverty-reduction tool, and therefore, Carnegie Mellon University launched FarmView as a project to solve the global food crisis and fight poverty with AI. FarmView essentially uses robotics that AI powers to improve the agricultural yield of certain staple crops and plant breeding, especially sorghum. Sorghum is tolerant of both drought and heat, which is valuable in developing countries like Nigeria, India and Ethiopia as it thrives in famine-prone parts of the world.

Taking Advantage of AI

These new emerging techniques to fight poverty with AI could mean significant developments for charities that are advocating for the world’s poor. Here is a list of measures that charities may take to adopt AI into their battles against poverty and better improve their organization and techniques for fundraising and philanthropy:

  1. Targeted Outreach: As seen with the example from Stanford, charities can use AI to analyze past and current data on poverty levels to provide helpful information by identifying individuals and communities most in need and delivering services and necessities to the poor. This allows charities to target their efforts and reach a wider range of people living in poverty more effectively.
  2. Virtual Assistants and Chatbots: Charities can use AI-powered chatbots and other types of virtual assistants to aid in technical tasks that would make the operation of the charity smoother and more effective. For example, chatbots can help answer frequently asked questions, provide information on different services and collect donations.
  3. Predictive Modeling: Charities can help analyze poverty-related factors, including unemployment and rising costs of living, to predict future trends and needs. This can help with planning for future challenges and allow charities to allocate resources accordingly.
  4. Fraud Detection: Detecting fraud can be easier than ever, as accessible AI is able to analyze patterns of donations, identify suspicious activity and prevent charities from losing funds.
  5. Automation: Charities can also automate certain manual labor tasks to fortify the process of running a charity, including data entry, which allows charities to redirect funds and savings to other poverty-related efforts, and ensure the smooth operation of the charities.

The Beginning of a New Era

Charities have already begun adopting AI into their operations, and they will only continue to explore the possibilities technology can bring to fight poverty with AI. Tech giant IBM, for instance, has partnered up with the nonprofit organization St John’s Bread & Life to establish the Emergency Food Best Practice project. With the organization helping “serve more than 2,000 meals a day” in New York, IBM plans to develop a tool based on the data and distribution model of St. John’s Bread & Life and share it with other organizations to produce results benefiting those most in need.

– Noura Matalqa
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence in South African Schools
With driverless taxis hitting the streets of San Francisco last year, evidently, humanity’s trust in artificial intelligence (AI) has turned a significant corner. No longer is the idea of computers being able to evolve and learn reserved to the pages of science fiction novels or Steven Spielberg blockbusters. In fact, this automated, adaptive technology will soon be arriving in schools in developing nations across the African continent; helping to educate future generations and alleviate millions from the confines of entrenched poverty. 

What is Adaptive Learning Technology?

Adaptive learning is a concept that has been around for decades and depicts a method whereby teachers try to suit the unique requirements of individual students by customizing activities specifically for them. By having students work on computers with adaptive learning technology software installed, individual pupils can receive hints and tips on how to solve problems separately from their peers, who may not require the extra help. This boosts confidence in struggling students and ensures they do not end up behind. 

Who is Behind It?

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, South Africa’s Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies announced the establishment of an Artificial Intelligence Institute at the G20 Digital Economy Ministers Meeting in Bali in September 2022. Ntshavheni stated that it was crucial that South Africa invests significantly to provide its youth with “access to modern training, skill sets and formal education.” To achieve this, the Department of Basic Education has introduced robotics and coding to the countrys school curriculum for Grades R to 3 and Grade 7 for the year 2023. This desire to introduce artificial intelligence in South African schools has come just months after Kenya became the first African country to teach coding as a school subject in March 2022. 

Which Companies are Pioneering the Software?

The ADvTech Group, a Johannesburg-based company that operates within the education industry, has become the first initiative to roll out its own artificial intelligence in South African schools. The new digital learning platform ADvLEARN aims to “enhance learning in Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Mathematical Literacy.” MathU, a “software as a service (SaaS)” company based in Pretoria that specializes in adaptive learning technology and software engineering is creating this technology. The ambition is to create “personalized learning pathways” which will fill in any gaps in students learning, providing each pupil with the equivalent of a one-on-one tutor. 

Who is Benefitting From AI?

Daniel Makina, writing in the SA Financial Markets Journal, notes the boom in AI agricultural start-ups such as Aerobotics, MySmartFarm and DroneClouds, which are “spurring the technological revolution” in South Africa. The employment of AI in the agricultural sector has led to significant and permanent changes that will have lasting implications. In helping to identify diseases and enable the monitoring of soil health without the need for laboratory testing infrastructure, AI will allow future farmers to broker better prices with suppliers. Similarly, the introduction of artificial intelligence in South African schoolswill help educate the next generation, and not just the brightest students but all those who would otherwise end up behind by a lack of customized tuition in large classrooms. 

Ultimately, those that wish to see a prosperous South Africa will welcome the increased involvement of adaptive technology in classrooms. The capacity to provide more support for students who may otherwise slip under the radar could have long-term benefits for future generations. Education is one of the key components in alleviating whole generations from the spiral of poverty and the introduction of artificial intelligence in South African schools may well serve as a catalyst in improving the lives of many of the nation’s poorest.

– Max Edmund
Photo: Flickr

AI technology
AI technology is all around and many use it without even knowing it. However, many people in developing countries cannot access this technology without help. WorldData has reported that there are 152 developing countries worldwide, with a population of 6.69 billion. The entirety of Central and South America and Africa are developing nations, along with the majority of Asia and other island states. About 9% of the global population is living in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.90 per day, and living below the higher poverty line. More than 20% earn less than $3.20 per day and more than 40% earn less than $5.50.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is basically coding and software that help people in daily life. While people know it best for its role in science and medicine, it also has a role in the productive robots in factories, the voice recognition in smartphones, the software that detects online viruses and the drones that deliver packages and help farmers. While there is no official definition for AI, it is typically a man-made machine that does things humans cannot do in a timely manner or at all. The term “artificial intelligence” or “AI” was created in 1956 at a conference in New Hampshire, the United States, but AI machines existed before that.

How is AI Technology Helping Developing Nations?

Agriculture. AI technology supports many different aspects of agriculture, particularly in Africa. It helps farmers take care of their crops by detecting when is the best time to plant and harvest. It can also help detect when crops are sick. For example, mCrops is a form of AI that helps diagnose crop diseases in Uganda. Additionally, another AI that is helpful in agriculture is drones that spray pesticides on sick plants. However, they can also spray water and help plant new crops in the healthiest parts of the ground. An example of this is Aerobotics, which works in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Education. AI technology can help developing nations, especially in rural areas, with education because it is effective for illiteracy, coursework and general school subjects, and can alleviate the short supply of teachers and supplies using tutoring technology. Sites like Dapito, Eneza Education and Tutorful help people connect around the world. For example, they teach English to non-English speakers, customizing content and lessons for a specific student. Students in developing nations are intelligent, but they lack qualified teachers and are sometimes unable to travel to school. For example, travel might not be available when there are floods and when they are sick, especially when many schools are far away.

Recognition. This method of AI includes location and supports many fields, such as health care, natural disasters, deliveries and shipments, and more, generally by the use of drones. An earthquake hit Nepal in 2015 where the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) used AI in relief to locate damage from social media posts, mobile devices, satellites and multiple other devices. Currently, the World Wildlife Fund uses drones in Kenya to arrest wildlife poachers, and UNICEF is building a machine to detect malnutrition using facial recognition.

AI Technology and Health Care

AI technology is helping globally, especially in rural countries in Africa. It is constantly undergoing development for health care but relies on the government, NGOs and medical professionals to authorize machines for medical use and support. AI can diagnose patients, recommend treatments and discover global viruses. For those living in rural and developing nations, AI is lifesaving as it can locate injured people which a normal navigation or GPS system cannot do, and send medicine and medical supplies via drones. It also provides qualified doctors to countries with a lack of medical professionals and to those who need a second opinion on diagnoses, treatment and surgery. This reduces costs, manual labor and mortality rates and develops education in health care and literacy.

In 2022, the University of West Scotland developed new AI technology that enables lung diseases to be identified faster with an accuracy of 98%, meaning diseases are less likely to spread and more people will be correctly diagnosed before a disease progresses and can receive treatment. Further research has found that it can detect COVID-19 cases. This technology is especially useful in developing nations during winter periods especially and globally in general. This will not replace human labor but will support hospitals. This AI technology cuts short the long wait and use of CT scans, blood tests, x-rays and ultrasounds, cutting down further costs and time taken to identify disease and illness.

– Deanna Barratt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

China's poverty reductionSince 1980, the number of people living in absolute poverty in China has been reduced by 800 million. This has coincided with China’s sustained GDP growth for the past two decades and 8% growth in 2021. However, for China’s poverty reduction to continue, the country needs to address issues of income inequality and lack of human capital development.

How Poverty is Measured

In 2020 President Xi Xing Ping announced the “complete victory” of his campaign to eliminate poverty. He claimed this because everyone had met the Chinese government’s extreme poverty line of $2.25 income per day. But, according to the World Bank, an “upper-middle income” country such as China should use a poverty line of $5.50 a day. At this level, China’s poverty reduction still appears to have performed well, reducing the percentage of people below the poverty line of $5.50 from 98% in 1990 to 17% in 2018.

However, China now has a similar income per capita that the United States had in the 1960s when the US set its poverty line at $21.70 (adjusting for inflation). At this poverty line, the US had less than one-quarter of its population in poverty. In comparison, applying a poverty line of $21.20 to China today over 80% of the population would be in poverty. This suggests that China is far from achieving “complete victory” in eliminating poverty.

Problems with Mass Mobilization

During the last decade, China relocated hundreds of millions of rural people to new city apartment complexes. Unfortunately, many cannot afford the city rents. In fact, the current Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently noted that 600 million people cannot afford city rents. As the New York Times reported in 2013, “Top-down efforts to quickly transform entire societies have often come to grief, and urbanization has already proven one of the most wrenching changes in China’s 35 years of economic transition.”

Lack of Investment in Human Capital Development

Also, according to a 2021 article in The Diplomat, China has not invested in rural education and human capital development. That means 70% of the workforce, which engages in labor-intensive, low-skill jobs, hasn’t completed high school and therefore does not qualify for the retraining programs for better-paying jobs. In 2019, the manufacturing and construction sectors employed 46% of the migrant workforce. In addition to low wages, migrant workers encounter more safety hazards.  They also lack access to social welfare protections available to others.

RCEF: Pushing Quality Rural Education

To continue to reduce poverty, China will need to address these issues. This will become increasingly important as China loses its comparative advantage in the labor-intensive markets, and increasingly relies on innovation to drive growth. Luckily, non-government organizations such as the Rural China Education Foundation (RCEF) are taking the lead to promote quality education in rural areas of China. The RCEF is focusing on helping the left-behind young and elderly.  It innovates with its community-based and student-centered curriculum rather than focusing strictly on test prep.

Access to Education for All through AI Investment: Squirrel AI

On top of this, China’s mass implementation and investment in artificial intelligence (AI) is helping to provide access to education for all. Derek Li’s Squirrel AI is a good example of this. Li found that conventional online training failed because it didn’t engage students for more than a 14-minute stretch. Squirrel AI uses adaptative AI technology to teach, evaluate, test and train students. The AI technology simulates the methods and responses of the highest-rated teachers.

As Li says, “AI technology is at a point where it can disrupt the education industry that has not changed for hundreds of years, by providing every single child with access to the best teacher for that individual child’s needs.”  Squirrel AI also teaches students methods and thought processes anchored in imagination and creativity. It is one of the top two adoptive AI companies globally. The company has also opened 1800 offline learning centers that provide educational access to students in rural areas. This was especially important in times of COVID-19.

Thinking Ahead

If China’s poverty reduction is to continue at a more sustainable rate, further development of quality education and other means of human capital development will be important. Hopefully, this development will also help increase the wages of the lowest wage workers who still live at a level of income that is not viable.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Flickr

Alleviate Poverty in Latin AmericaArtificial intelligence (AI) is bound to increase global GDP by 14% in 2030, becoming one of the most prominent industries of the future. As the world sees an exponential increase in professionals who leverage artificial intelligence for social good in different fields, it will also witness a myriad of projects harnessing AI to help the poor in different areas of the world. Despite some pessimistic outlooks on AI for the future, it holds an intrinsic power to address Latin America’s most pressing issues. Here is some information about how AI can help alleviate poverty in Latin America.


The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) advocates a shared vision of AI to alleviate social inequality in Latin America. The IDB has acted on this vision by creating the fAIr LAC initiative, a broad network of multisectoral AI experts and practitioners to promote the ethical and humanitarian use of artificial intelligence, to foster economic growth and income distribution and ultimately to change social policymaking in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Teams at fAIr LAC have adopted the principles of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on AI that include human-centered values, inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being of civilians. Principle 1.1 addresses “responsible stewardship of trustworthy AI in pursuit of beneficial outcomes for people and the planet . . . advancing inclusion of underrepresented populations, reducing economic, social, gender and other inequalities, and protecting natural environments . . . .”

To carry out its ambitious agenda, the IDB is collaborating with data-driven enterprises in the region to introduce digital tools to create AI of social value. In this way, both businesses and social development organizations can take advantage of this technology.

Algorithmic Justice

fAIrLAC’s diverse network of professionals has a commitment to creating algorithmic justice to address inequality in Latin American society, as policies are only as effective and non-biased as the algorithms on which they are based. Trustworthy and useful AI can take many forms. The network has developed pilot projects encompassing issues such as government response time, aid delivery, education and natural disaster warning. The fAIr LAC regional observatory maps and tracks AI projects in Latin America and it thus knows who is implementing AI in the region, and for what purposes.

Using AI for Social Welfare

The Sisben Welfare Index in Colombia is a system of surveys through which households are scored on four dimensions to determine the need for social assistance. Through fAIr LAC, it has managed to increase social assistance and efficiency and has improved resource allocation, rooting out possible biases through a more consistent assessment of eligibility.

The Costa Rican Household Poverty Level Prediction uses the Proxy Mean Test, an algorithm to verify whether a family can qualify for aid, as the poorest households in Latin America cannot usually provide records of their living conditions or salaries. The PMT uses alternative attributes to see if a family is fit for aid and whether it is currently looking for more attributes that AI can measure. For this purpose, IDB has developed a challenge—a data science competition to predict household poverty in Costa Rica.

AI to alleviate poverty in Latin America can be helpful in numerous ways. Through the efforts of the Sisben Welfare Index and the Proxy Mean Test, hopefully, Latin America will see a reduction in poverty over time.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

AI Helps India Combat COVID-19When COVID-19 struck globally, India, like other nations worldwide, experienced a high volume of citizens infected with the coronavirus. By the end of May 2020, more than 150,000 Indian people tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the country’s leaders not only wanted to curb the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases but also wanted to address misinformation. To combat the COVID-19 “infodemic,” the Indian government needed a tool that could provide regularly updated COVID-19 guidance to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 throughout the country. For instance, MyGov Saathi shows how AI helps India combat COVID-19.

MyGov Saathi

The Indian government’s Digital India Corporation (MyGov) aimed to provide 1.3 billion people with a reliable artificial intelligence tool that provides factual and helpful guidance on COVID-19. By collaborating with Accenture and Microsoft, MyGov quickly developed an “AI-powered virtual agent” called MyGov Saathi, which means “companion” in the Hindi language. The AI tool was launched on April 24, 2020, and possesses similar abilities to Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agent and Azure.

“Self4Society” Webpage

MyGov Saathi is accessible on the Indian government’s “self4society” website where it is embedded. By managing communications automatically, more human capital is available to address “urgent and complex situations” that require human skill. Moreover, the artificial intelligence tool is able to provide “fact sheets, information on government initiatives, professional and medical advice and alerts and lists of myth busters” to address misinformation. Through MyGov Saathi, AI helps India combat COVID-19.

Extending its Reach

At first, the artificial intelligence agent only operated in English. Now, however, it communicates and offers information in Hindi and other local languages to extend its reach. In January 2021, MyGov Saathi had approximately 250,000 monthly users. The daily interactions on the platform range from hundreds to thousands. On average, over a 16-day period, MyGov Saathi has close to 600,000 “total active sessions.” AI helps India combat COVID-19 by providing individuals with speedy and valuable information to guide them through the pandemic.

COVID-19 WhatsApp Support Counter

Haptik, an artificial intelligence firm, created the MyGov Corona Helpdesk in March 2020. The “WhatsApp chatbot” operates 24/7 to answer COVID-19 questions and combat misinformation. The chatbot has capabilities such as:

  • A symptom checker and probable diagnosis function
  • Providing guidelines to prevent COVID-19 transmission
  •  Sharing up-to-date information from the Ministry of Health
  • Dispelling COVID-19 myths and misinformation
  • Sharing the contact details of the official COVID-19 hotline

By January 2021, the MyGov Corona Helpdesk served more than 25 million people and answered more than 36 million pandemic-related questions. These statistics show how AI helps India combat COVID-19.

MyGov Saathi’s Future Updates

Currently, the MyGov Saathi artificial intelligence agent only interacts with persons through a list of options. However, the country plans to update the software to “evolve from the menu model to engage in actual intuitive conversations with users.”

Overall, MyGov Saathi and MyGov Corona Helpdesk illustrate how AI helps India combat COVID-19, showing the growing importance of technology, even in unprecedented times. Above all, this demonstrates the universe of possibilities present in seemingly impossible circumstances.

– Jannique McDonald
Photo: Flickr