Artificial intelligence has evolved from a futuristic fantasy to our living reality. The possibilities for artificial intelligence-based solutions are continuously developing. Therefore, the potential to expand the reach of various initiatives to help those in poverty is increasing. Recently, companies have recognized that artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by contributing to various sustainability initiatives in impoverished countries. The globally impoverished disproportionately suffer from the negative impacts of environmental issues. Artificial intelligence can help those in poverty restore a sense of empowerment in struggling communities.
How Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished with Sustainability Goals
- Wadhwani AI – The focus at Wadhwani AI is to bring artificial intelligence to communities in need (and thus that are the least likely to have access to artificial intelligence). One of their current projects focuses on cotton farming. Cotton is the third-largest crop in India with 75 percent grown by small farmers who struggle to have a stable income. Pests are a huge problem for small farmers for both economic and mental health reasons. After 40 percent of cotton crops were destroyed by a pink bollworm attack between 2017-2018, 100,000 cotton farmers committed suicide. As many pesticides have proven unreliable over time, Wadhwani AI is developing technology to detect pests, reducing crop losses and pesticide use.
- Gringgo – Recycling collection is incredibly limited in impoverished areas. Generally, only 40 percent of trash is collected in South East Asia. Gringgo, based in Indonesia, uses an app to help collect plastic waste. The app connects waste collectors to uncollected recyclables in their area that can be sold for a profit, increasing income for waste workers and cleaning up waste simultaneously. Recycling facilities purchase these recyclables and convert them into various commodities. For example, plastics can be converted into fuel for the cement industry. Selling waste back to recycling industries (effectively taking it out of the waste stream) reduces ocean pollution, as many landfills are located near rivers, causing much of the collected waste to end up in oceans. Gringgo aims to increase recycling rates by 50 percent by 2022 and reduce the plastic in oceans by 25 percent by 2020 in South East Asia.
- Makerere University – Air pollution causes more than 700,000 deaths in Africa yearly. Additionally, 98 percent of cities in low and middle-income areas do not meet air quality guidelines. Finding solutions to reduce air pollution is imperative. Based in Uganda, Makerere University demonstrates how artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by aiming to improve air quality. By using low-cost technology, Makerere University hopes to obtain more data on air pollution and the communities most at risk. Sensors attached to taxis around Uganda track pollution and will ultimately forecast future air pollution rates. Policymakers will use this data to make informed decisions regarding industrial changes to reduce air pollution. As data on air pollution rates in specific communities is currently lacking. However, this study could raise awareness among citizens about the unhealthy pollution rates in their own communities.
AI expansion is inevitable; it is already happening. While there are many possibilities for how artificial intelligence can help the impoverished, companies may also question the ethics of new technologies and possible impacts. That being said, it is clear that artificial intelligence can help those in poverty when paired with an open dialogue with those involved in terms of how to help.
– Amy Dickens