AI & Global Governance: Turning the Tide on Crime with Predictive Policing

AI has taken the world by storm, becoming a marketing buzzword and hotly commented subject. But it’s certainly not all hype. Over the last few years there have been several important milestones in AI, in particular in terms of image, pattern and speech recognition, language comprehension and autonomous vehicles. Advancements such as these have prompted the healthcare, automotive, financial, communications and many more industries to adopt AI in pursuit of its transformative potential. But what about the law enforcement community? How can AI benefit law enforcement and why might this be dangerous?

Can Data Save U.N. Peacekeeping?

Does international peacekeeping protect civilians caught up in civil wars? Do the 16,000 United Nations peacekeepers deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo actually save lives, and if so how many? Did the 9,000 patrols conducted by the U.N. Mission in South Sudan in the past three months protect civilians there? The answer is a dissatisfying “maybe.”

But peacekeeping can—and must—make a case for its own utility, using data already at its fingertips.

Turning the tables

Getting nutrition data from the Republic of Congo’s remote health centers is a notorious headache. Health workers fill out log books by hand on a day-to-day basis. Once a month, they compile a report that is sent to a district officer, by whatever means of transportation is available. The district officer compiles the data for a district before passing on a summary to a departmental head at the Ministry in the capital, Brazzaville. The lag time typically amounts to five weeks — or more. By the time the information is analyzed and shared, it is stale.

A team of enterprising people from WFP and CAI are now working to change this.

In the Sahel, pastoralists rely on satellites to search for water

When droughts occur, herders can cover several hundred to thousands of kilometres before finding an adequate water spot with enough water and vegetation to meet the needs of the many herds gathering there. To decide where to go, pastoralists typically pay an emissary to check out the area they have in mind as their next destination, and report back. It takes at best a few days to get the information by motorbike, weeks if the journey is undertaken by camel. It is costly, slow and risky. But with satellite imagery, information on water and vegetation cover is available in real time, with enormous benefits for the herders, saving them time, money and, potentially, their livestock.

mVAM in 2018: Faster, Higher, Stronger

We are proud to report that, to date, mVAM has been activated in over 40 countries and activities are planned in six further locations. But our focus was not only on rolling out remote food security monitoring to new locations. As we’ve shown over the course of 2018, our work is just as much about making mVAM faster by automating the process from data collection through to visualisation in near real-time dashboards, as well as scaling up nutrition data collection; making mVAM fly higher through expanding our range of use cases and rolling out effective two-way communication tools; and making mVAM results stronger by working on eliminating bias and improving the reliability of mVAM results.

Learning smarter; a global hunt for solutions to "frontier challenges"

We are re-imagining development for the 21st century by building the world’s largest and fastest learning network. The Accelerator Lab network will comprise 60 labs based in nearly one-third of the world’s countries. We are trying to dramatically speed up our ability to learn which development ideas work and how to apply them more widely. As a way to discover new solutions in the public sector, labs are not new. A global network is.

Beyond bitcoin - Using blockchain to advance the SDGs

Imagine losing your legal identification and other official documents in a natural disaster. Without land title, rebuilding your home or business becomes impossible: Why invest in rebuilding at all when someone else can come along and claim your property?

Blockchain has tremendous potential to tackle this and other challenges, accelerating development progress that truly leave no one behind. But before we take a closer look at the potential benefits of blockchain, let’s unpack a technology often perceived negatively or as “too complex” in light of the crypto-currencies it powers, such as Bitcoin

How we can better support innovation in emergencies

At the beginning of this year, we wanted to take a critical look at our engagement with the Uganda operation. The Uganda operation was one we invested in heavily as a team, having supported through four missions and on-going remote support from 2016 – 2018. By undertaking this critical review, we wanted to get a better understanding of what went well in and the opportunities to improve our support for innovation in field operations. We wanted to use lessons learned from a more sustained engagement and investment to guide our work moving forward. Evidence-informed iterations are central to all of our work.

A fair deal for Ecuadorian cocoa farmers

Who can imagine Valentine’s Day without bon-bons, or Easter without chocolate eggs? Yet generations-old cocoa farming businesses are on the verge of collapse in the Amazon because cocoa farmers don’t receive fair pay for their work. Using blockchain technology, the United Nations Development Programme in Ecuador, AltFinLab and Amsterdam’s FairChain Foundation are developing the world’s first blockchain shared-value chocolate.

Artificial Intelligence in Africa is a Double-edged Sword

So far, developments in AI have been predominately driven by private sector technology actors, but growing interest by African governments has seen the start of conversations around “AI strategies” for growth and governance across the continent. AI is not typically applied to a defined problem in a neutral way. Navigating the complexities of AI application calls for a typology of positive AI and negative AI in the governance context. Positive AI is the use of such systems for broad social benefit. Conversely, negative AI is used for social division, suppression, or even violence.

3 ways to fix the way we fund humanitarian relief

Each year, humanitarian aid organizations save and protect tens of millions of people caught up in crises across the world. Their interventions are more timely, relevant and effective than ever. But humanitarian action is not always as fast as it should be, and needs are unevenly met. Even as record sums are raised, growing levels of vulnerability worldwide have resulted in a stubborn and harmful gap between need and response. Historically, donors have financed a little more than half of what the United Nations asks for each year. So, what do we need to do better?

To boost the percentage of coverage, humanitarian agencies need to break out of traditional funding models that are no longer sufficient for the complex and protracted crises we face. Humanitarian organizations – and their backers – will need to embrace one of the most important drivers of success: the ability to adapt and innovate their way out of problems.

Above the Clouds - How drones can support early warning systems in Bolivia

Bolivia is one of South America’s most natural disaster-prone nations and there is eagerness to bring in drones to complement climate change adaption initiatives already happening on the ground. This gives local authorities a data boost when predicting rainfall monitoring crops: “We use satellite images with Sentinel but these have time intervals, so the information varies. Drone technology will allow us to monitor at any time the phenological shifts of the crop. Prosuco has already purchased a drone. So we can corroborate the information from observing a fox’s behaviour with local observers.”

Integrating Big Data Sources to Monitor and Respond to Natural Disasters

In communities across the world that are prone to natural disasters, having an effective disaster response strategy in place is vital to save lives and support affected communities. To successfully coordinate what are often complex disaster relief efforts, governments, disaster response authorities and humanitarian agencies need useful, up-to-date information that can be easily accessed.

How Can Multilateralism Survive the Era of Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is converging with an extraordinary array of other technologies, from biotech and genomics, to neuro technology, robotics, cyber technology and manufacturing systems. Increasingly, these technologies are decentralized, beyond State control, and available to a wide range of actors around the world. While these trends may unlock enormous potential for humankind, the convergence of AI and new technologies also poses unprecedented risks to global security. In particular, they create challenges for the multilateral system and the United Nations, which operate at the inter-State level.

A Decade of Leveraging Big Data for Sustainable Development

Advances in information and communication technologies are driving global changes in our society—from the way we communicate with each other to the forces that shape our economy and behaviour. Insights generated from big data are already transforming many domains. Mobility data from mobile phone networks can reveal the extent of displacement after a disaster and help predict the spread of infectious diseases, while mobile airtime purchases can help track food consumption. Roofing materials visible from space serve as a proxy for poverty, changes in debit card usage indicate the impact of a crisis, and postal records have been used to estimate trade flows. At the same time, the rapidly evolving capabilities of artificial intelligence offer new opportunities to unlock the value of big data for more evidence-based decision-making that can accelerate progress towards the SDGs.

From Analog to Digital: The United Nations Embraces Technology

Rarely a day passes without a story on an exciting, or perhaps terrifying, advancement in technology as developers discover new ways to leverage quantum computers, robotics, 3D printing, and AI to solve new and age-old problems alike.

One exciting new development that tech watchers may have missed this year: efforts the United Nations has taken to modernize its work and better prepare itself as a platform for global discussions on the promises and perils of new technologies. Much of this work has been led by Secretary-General António Guterres, an engineer by training who took the helm at the UN determined to modernize and reform the organization to better prepare it to face the challenges of the 21st century, including achieving the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

An app to correct for bias in mVAM results

An inherent problem with mobile surveys is that respondents who are able to own a phone tend to be from households that are better-off and literate.

This leads to a selection bias in our results: respondents who are able to participate in the mVAM surveys are systematically different from those who are not. How do we ensure that our survey results are representative of the real population?

How do we keep socio-economic estimates up-to-date?

Accurate estimates of population demographics are vital in order to understand social and economic inequalities, and are essential to UNICEF’s work, as knowing where the most vulnerable children and families live is important for resource allocation. Traditional methods of collecting such estimates, however, are both time-consuming and expensive. Here, we explore a complementary approach. 

United Nations Secretary-General launches task force on digital financing of Sustainable Development Goals

Secretary-General António Guterres announced the launch of a global task force charged with recommending strategies to harness the potential of financial technology to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. “We have already seen how technology has helped expand financial inclusion—itself an important goal—by 1.2 billion people in just six years,” said Mr. Guterres. “But we have only just begun to tap the potential of digital finance and investment to meet the broader agenda set forth in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.”

Why Context Is King For Unicef's Innovative Life-Saving Solutions

A few years ago UNICEF met with a group of about 40 entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley looking for creative solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing people in the poorest parts of the world. But after a week of brain-storming ideas, it was clear that they were on the wrong track. This week of co-creation resulted in solutions like subscription-based smartphone health apps that would cost someone living in poverty an entire day’s income, or water purifying solutions that would have to be delivered on a large truck to remote villages that were only accessible by footpaths.