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September 18, 2023

UK launches ‘AI for Development’ scheme at UN event

The UK is working to cement its position as a global leader in the safe use of AI ahead of the Bletchley Summit in November.

By Ryan Morrison

The UK government plans to utilise AI technology for international development and predicting future humanitarian crises in enough time to provide aid. The plan, announced at the UN, is to begin the scheme in November when the UK hosts the first AI Safety Summit at Bletchley.

The new programme is designed to utilise AI in a safe way and speed up international development efforts (Photo: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock)
The new programme is designed to utilise AI in a safe way and speed up international development efforts (Photo by Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock)

Named ‘AI for Development’, the new programme is a partnership with the Canadian International Development Research Centre and will focus on building local AI skills and boosting innovation in Africa. This will include improving access to computing power on the continent to drive AI training and operations. 

Since the launch of ChatGPT by OpenAI in November last year, companies, countries and other organisations have grappled with how to utilise the power of AI safely. This includes finding ways to ensure it aligns with human values and is used for good. As part of the new programme, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly will call on nations to come together to utilise AI to accelerate progress on the UN’s sustainable development goals.

The UK is also organising an event on AI in the margins of the UN General Assembly to drive forward the global conversation on AI and convince leading AI nations to attend the Bletchley Summit. The UN session will also hear from technology companies, NGOs and national governments on ways AI can help achieve targets set by the UN to create a healthier, fairer and wealthier world by 2030.

“The opportunity of AI is immense,” Cleverly said. “It has already been shown to speed up drug discovery, help develop new treatments for common diseases, and predict food insecurity – to name only a few uses. The UK, alongside our allies and partners, is making sure that the fulfilment of this enormous potential is shared globally.”

He added that as technology continues to rapidly evolve there needs to be a global approach to seize on the opportunities it presents. “The UK-hosted AI summit this November will be key to helping us achieve this.”

AI investment in disaster prediction

Part of the announcement included a £1m investment fund that will be used to harness the power of AI to help countries and organisations prevent crises before they happen. Called the Complex Risk Analytics Fund (CRAF), it will see the establishment of AI models that can predict emergencies before they occur to speed up recovery.

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Julie Delahanty, president of the International Development Research Centre, said in a statement the AI for Development programme builds on existing partnerships to bring in the power of AI and use it to reduce inequalities, address poverty and improve food systems. 

The UK AI Summit in Bletchley is on 1 and 2 November. Details are relatively sparse on the specifics of the event but it is expected to advance the safety of next-generation AI models. 

Earlier this month the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) set out a series of objectives for the summit, which is expected to see the major AI labs, academics and nations meet to discuss the future of AI safety. The five objectives include creating a shared understanding of risk, creating a process for collaboration on AI safety, developing measures for individual organisations, establishing areas for collaboration and showcasing the importance of AI safety frameworks.

Read more: Business leaders ‘optimistic’ about future of AI

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