Connie Ledoux Book, chair of the National Association of Independent College and Universities and president of Elon University.
Divina Frau-Meigs, UNESCO Chair for Knowledge and Future in the Age of Sustainable Digital Development and professor at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University.
Lee Rainie, incoming founding director of Elon University's new center on the digital future, previously longtime director of internet and technology research at Pew Research Center.
Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center and professor of communications at Elon University.
Connie Ledoux Book, chair of the National Association of Independent College and Universities (a US organization representing nearly 1,000 private, non-profit colleges and universities) and president of Elon University. Book led a major research project, “Realizing the Global Promise of the Internet,” at IGF 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is a well-known scholar of digital communications. She has assisted Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center in the supporting and funding of undergraduate student teams sent to document proceedings at 11 Global IGF events, seven IGF-USA events, Internet Hall of Fame inductions and many other major technology events around the world.
Lee Rainie, longtime director of internet and technology research at Pew Research Center, is, as of this fall, taking a new full-time position as scholar-in-residence at Elon University. Rainie has led research teams in producing more than 800 reports based on surveys and data-science analyses that examine people’s online activities and the internet’s role in their lives. He is the co-author of the 20-year series of “Future of the Internet” reports in which thousands of experts share their insights as to the opportunities and challenges emerging in the next decade of digital life. He has served several times as a keynote speaker and moderator at IGF-USA.
Divina Frau-Meigs, native of Morocco, UNESCO chair Savoir Devenir in sustainable digital development, member of MILID and ORBICOM network, and professor of media and information and communications technology sociology at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris. A longtime IGF participant, she has coordinated the French National Agency Project TRANSLIT (on media and digital literacies) and led implementation of the European project ECO, which produced massive open online courses to provide training in digital humanities and literacy. She also served on the High-Level Group on Fake News for the European Commission.
Alejandro Pisanty, Internet Hall of Fame member and professor of internet governance and the information society, has contributed to the growth and improvement of the Internet in Mexico and Latin America and across the world through his position on the faculty at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and in his leadership roles at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Society, as well as other influential networking organizations. His advocacy, lobbying and understanding of the needs of developing countries have influenced policy and directed funding to enable millions to get online.
Francisca Oladipo, vice-chancellor at Thomas Adewumi University, Nigeria, and a professor of computer science; she earlier served as director of research, innovation, consultancy and extensions. She is the executive coordinator of Virus Outbreak Data Network Africa and Asia (VODANA). In 2014, she served as a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology under its Empowering the Teachers Initiative. She was named a Grace Hopper faculty scholar in 2016, and she was named a fellow of the Nigerian Computer Society in 2020.
Siva Prasad Rambhatla served the University of Hyderabad, India, as a leader in the Centre for Digital Learning, Training and Resources and professor of anthropology for more than 30 years. He has worked with UNESCO’s Information Ethics Working Group, he was a featured speaker at the 2021 international Emerging Technologies and Changing Dynamics of Information conference and spoke at the Artificial Intelligence for Information Accessibility (AI4IA) conference in 2022. In Kyoto he is also serving as an expert on AI generative systems and UNESCO’s “Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.”
Wei “Wayne” Wang, a member of the IGF Dynamic Coalition on Data and Artificial Intelligence Governance and teaching fellow at the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) think tank in Brazil, is a PhD student at the University of Hong Kong School of Law, guest lecturer at University of Warsaw and co-founder and administrative officer at Creative Commons Hong Kong. At FGV he is teaching Internet Regulation, Data Protection and Algorithmic Governance in China and researching Digital Sovereignty, Data Infrastructure, Digital Public Services and Platform Governance in the Chinese Automating State.
Eve Gaumond is a doctoral student at the University of Montreal. Her dissertation focuses on the impact of artificial intelligence on higher education. She's a member of the Canada-CIFAR Chair in AI and Human Rights and a guest researcher at Keio University. Prior to starting her Ph.D., she served as an expert on law and technology. She has provided expert input for the Canadian and American governments tied to her work on disinformation, online platforms and democracy. She is also a contributor to the American news organization Lawfare. She is a member of the bar in Quebec, Canada.
Renata de Oliveira Miranda Gomes, is an IGF Youth delegate to IGF 2023, selected to represent Brazil. She recently completed her master’s degree in communication at the University of Brasilia. She is a co-author of a number of research reports, among them: “Access to Information Laws in Latin America,” 2021. “Platforms and Science Communication” 2022. She works as an analyst at Arko Advice, a political analysis, strategy and public affairs company, based in Brasilia. Her research interests include power and political process, public communication of science, health communication, digital culture and social media.
Connie Book, chair of the National Association of Independent College and Universities and president of Elon University
Dan Anderson, special assistant to the president, Elon University
Dan Anderson, special assistant to the president, Elon University
3. Good Health and Well-Being
4. Quality Education
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduced Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnerships for the Goals
Targets: Speakers at this Launch event will explain the importance of focusing more institutional energy by higher education and across all institutions toward enhancing full digital inclusion and more widespread digital literacy and adopt new approaches to facilitate change. The rapid advance of artificial intelligence has created an urgent need for higher education institutions and others to develop and adopt formal programs to equip people to function in a much different world. The speedy co-evolution of humans and AI requires that every institution must focus significant energy on fostering more-widespread digital awareness, literacy and activism and a wider understanding of how human rights, human agency, identity, privacy, security, and trust are evolving. Of critical importance: There must be more-diverse participation by knowledgeable people from outside the technology bubble in co-creating the future design of the human-centered digital intelligence and knowledge systems that serve the public interest. Higher education institutions, in fact all institutions, can and must engage more diligently now in enabling society to achieve these goals. Higher levels of inclusion and literacy will heighten digital trust and security. Throughout history, greater inclusion and literacy have lifted civilizations and bred social amity while closing divides. At this moment, those of us committed to higher education know that advancing technological change demands that people from outside of the industry be involved in designing the tech and contributing to its regulation, and the global public must adopt new literacies and create new norms around positive digital change. All of this requires new programs and initiatives in higher education and across all human institutions in digital inclusion and digital literacy. A heightened focus on these areas will give all a better opportunity to take full advantage of all the possible gains and help ward off emerging problems that arise as artificial intelligence spreads, as misinformation and deepfakes become common, and as stark differences continue to grow between tech sophisticates and those who struggle to get good access and good information.
Presentation followed by open discussion
In service of the public interest in the age of AI and in support of the Global Digital Compact and the UN’s SDGs, the goal of this Launch event is to create a deeper awareness by leaders of higher education and other institutions of the urgent need to innovate and initiate new programs in support of heightened digital inclusion and digital literacy. Those who attend this event will be encouraged to sign and share with others a position statement urging that higher education and all institutions across society actively assist in the positive evolution of humanity as it embraces AI and other emerging technologies, prioritizing the broadening and deepening of diverse public inclusion and education and the preparation of an educated public that is fully capable of contributing to a positive future. Prior to this IGF launch event, during it and following it, the organizers will solicit endorsements of the position statement by notable leaders in higher education and other supporters of this cause.
Higher education must play a key role in educating humanity to prepare for the AI revolution. Digital literacy must become a core part of the higher education experience.
The six principles set forth in the statement released at this session and developed through a global collaboration can provide a framework as institutions around the world develop policies and protocols that fit with their mission and values.
Following this IGF session, the statement on higher education and AI should be distributed widely to reach as many institutions as possible.
Higher education administrators and faculty members should be encouraged to carefully study the six principles of the statement and consider their relevance and use as policies and practices are developed at their own institutions. Higher ed should be considered a leading force in wise development of AI technologies.
With artificial intelligence broadening its impact on all aspects of life, Elon University leaders have coordinated development of a statement of principles to guide higher education institutions as they prepare humanity for the revolution brought about by this rapidly evolving and groundbreaking technology.
The statement was co-authored by Elon President Connie Ledoux Book, Elon scholar-in-residence Lee Rainie and Professor Divina Frau-Meigs of Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris and has generated feedback and support from higher education organizations, leaders and scholars from around the world. (Comprehensive details at: https://www.elon.edu/u/ai-higher-education/)
The authors were joined by fellow scholars on Oct. 9, in Kyoto, Japan, at the 18th annual United Nations Internet Governance Forum. They led a discussion about the multitude of ways higher education institutions can develop artificial intelligence literacy and commit to serving society’s best interests as these technologies continue to expand.
Book explained that the six principles offered in the statement embody a call for the higher education community to be an integral partner in development and governance of AI.
“The statement provides a framework for leaders at colleges and universities around the world as they develop strategies to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” Book said during the session, which generated in-person and online attendees from around the globe. “At Elon University, faculty are adapting the statement as they create policies on AI and design new approaches to teaching and learning.”
The six foundational principles that are outlined in the statement are:
- People, not technology, must be at the center of our work
- We should promote digital inclusion within and beyond our institutions
- Digital and information literacy is an essential part of a core education
- AI tools should enhance teaching and learning
- Learning about technologies is an experiential, lifelong process
- AI research and development must be done responsibly
The statement issues a call for the higher education community, and not just those within traditional technology fields, to be deeply involved in the development of governance mechanisms for AI, mechanisms that should be crafted by multiple stakeholders.
“Educators in all fields are well suited to provide intellectual and ethical guidance, conduct much-needed research, serve as trustworthy watchdogs and be advocates for learners, teachers and society,” the statement reads.
Rainie joined Elon this year as scholar-in-residence after serving for 24 years as director of internet and technology research at the Pew Research Center. He has also been a research partner for Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center for more than 20 years. At the session in the Kyoto International Convention Center, Rainie explained that the six principles bring time-tested truths to artificial intelligence and are essential for maintaining human rights, human autonomy and human dignity.
“Clearly, we are at a singular moment now as AI spreads through our lives,” Rainie said. “In the past, tools and machines were created to enhance or surpass the physical capacities of humans. The advent of AI brings technologies that enhance or surpass our cognitive capacities.”
Rainie has begun his work at Elon with a research survey of global experts and the general public in the United States to explore the views of both groups about how the benefits and harms of AI may unfold in the years to come. That work, which will be released in early 2024, builds upon the decades of work of the Imagining the Internet Center to catalogue the insights of hundreds of experts about how the digital revolution impacts humanity.
Rainie noted that past surveys have generated a wide range of answers to questions about the digital revolution, but there is a universal purpose that can be seen driving those answers. “They want us to think together to devise solutions that yield the greatest possible achievements with the least possible pain,” Rainie said.
With the introduction of new generative AI tools such as ChatGPT in late 2022 and the increasing integration of AI technologies into a broader range of platforms, discussion around its long-term impact has exploded. Given the increasing complexity of AI systems and the newness of the technology, those discussions have often foster panic upon many in the population.
“As researchers, we have to resist the panic, the current panic about AI systems and the fact they might produce superintelligence that is more intelligent than us,” said Frau-Meigs, who serves as the UNESCO chair for Savoir-Devenir in sustainable digital development. “We need to lift fear and anxiety. … we as universities have to come up with solutions for learners worldwide.”
Frau-Meigs said it is important to promote media and information literacy first to create a familiarity with concepts and issues that allows larger segments of the public to move on to AI literacy. “We want to leave a space for understanding and for adoption,” she said.
Joining the statement authors for Monday’s session were other scholars from a range of disciplines who examined how higher education can proactively engage in AI governance and development.
Alejandro Pisanty, a member of the Internet Hall of Fame and professor of internet governance and the information society at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the ongoing development of AI is having an impact on higher education by drawing talent away from university research centers. “First-world countries are seeing what we have suffered from in developing countries for decades, which is brain drain,” said Pisanty, a member of the Internet Hall of Fame.
That makes it important for higher education to take a proactive role in the development and governance of AI in the years ahead. “The highest cost we would incur is the cost of doing nothing,” he said.
Francisca Oladipo, vice chancellor and professor of computer science at Thomas Adewumi University in Nigeria similarly warned against inaction and the temptation to think that the issues surrounding AI are only related to this in fields related to technology and computer science.
“In Nigeria, we have viewed AI as something for computer people, but that’s no longer the case,” Oladipo said. “We need to be more inclusive to embrace everyone because the application of AI is across every field.”
Eve Gaumond, a law researcher at the University of Montreal Public Law Research Center is focused on artificial intelligence in higher education, freedom of expression in a digital context and access to justice. She said it is crucial that those developing AI systems in higher education have a deep understanding of the technologies and ask good questions. “Oftentimes ed tech looks like modern snake oil,” Gaumond said. “And modern snake oil can have real negative impacts. The datafication of students’ lives can discourage them from engaging in meaningful, formative experiences, and it’s especially worrisome when we know that the data starts being collected as early as primary level and continue following them through high school and university.”
Also participating in the session:
- Siva Prasad Rambhatla
Retired professor and leader of the Centre for Digital Learning, Training and Resources, University of Hyderabad, India
- Wei Wang
Member of the IGF Dynamic Coalition on Data and Artificial Intelligence Governance; teaching fellow, Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) think tank in Brazil; University of Hong Kong School of Law doctoral student
- Renata de Oliveira Miranda Gomes
IGF 2023 Youth delegate representing Brazil; recently earned a master’s degree in communication at the University of Brasilia