Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications expand opportunities for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. However, the benefits and risks of AI technology are not equally distributed across the world. There is an accelerating divide in terms of human and institutional capacities needed for AI and digital transformation.
Many governments worldwide are implementing digital transformation programmes to strengthen public services and citizen engagement using online platforms and technologies like AI. Digital governance, whether it concerns regulation of AI systems or protection of personal data, will mediate how societies leverage the economic potential of new technologies while minimising the risks.
Civil servants are important actors in shaping how governments and societies undergo digital transformation. They are often responsible for regulating technologies; devising strategies as well as providing incentives and an enabling environment for their creation, adoption, and use; shaping the infrastructure ecosystem in which technology will operate; and making decisions about public sector digital innovation and transformation. Effectively exercising this important digital governance function requires knowledge, competencies, and skills. The UN Broadband Commission has launched the Working Group on AI Capacity Building, to help build public sector capacities for digital innovation and transformation. The Working Group will be co-chaired by UNESCO and Nokia, and has Smart Africa, World Health Organization (WHO), 5Rights Foundation, European Telecommunications Satellite Organization (EUTELSO IGO) and International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation (ISTIC) as some of its members.
Dr Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, underlined the importance of “operationalizing a multi-stakeholder approach to include actors from the public sector, academia, civil society and the private sector in this capacity-building effort for AI and digital transformation”.
Ms Julia Jasinska, Head of International Relations & Trade Policy at Nokia, highlighted the core tenet of the Working Group that “technology alone is not enough; we also need to empower citizens and governments to make the best use of emerging technologies”.
The Working Group on AI Capacity Building will generate a knowledge base and recommendations that can underpin a knowledge platform that ensures public sector access to capacity building tools for AI and digital transformation. With the collective expertise of its members, the Working Group will analyze digital transformation-related use cases and good practices worldwide and develop a digital transformation and AI competency framework for civil services that can be adapted to the contexts of low- and middle-income countries.