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