IGF 2019 WS #429 National AI strategies and sustainable development


Organizer 1: Stephanie Borg Psaila, DiploFoundation
Organizer 2: Marco Lotti, DiploFoundation and Geneva Internet Platform
Organizer 3: Lee Hibbard, Council of Europe

Speaker 1: Marilia Maciel, Civil Society, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Speaker 2: Lee Hibbard, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Speaker 3: Marcel Dickow, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Policy Question(s): 

To what extent can artificial intelligence facilitate the realisation of sustainable development? How do national strategies and other similar policy documents tackle the use of artificial intelligence for sustainable development? What is missing? What adjustments do we recommend to harness the potential of AI for sustainable development?

Relevance to Theme: An increasing number of countries have published or are currently working on their national AI strategies, therefore, this is a crucial moment to influence their development. Much of the attention and conversation relevant to artificial intelligence evolves around human rights and ethics (e.g. non-discrimination, equality, etc.), but also security and economic aspects of AI. However, the correlation between AI, digital industrialization and SDGs deserves to be further explored, given that sustainable development is an umbrella concept that incorporates these different issues under a single banner.

The most digitally advanced nations are amongst the top performers in implementing the SDGs. According to the 2018 SDG Index, Nordic countries rank in the top ten with the highest SDG Index based on their performance across the SDGs. The same countries are also among the most digitally advanced countries as stated in the 2018 Global Competitiveness Report. This correlation was also singled out by WEF, which acknowledged the potential of technology in the pursuit of growth and prosperity. At the same time, the WEF recognises that the fourth industrial revolution makes the pathway to development less certain, as the gap between countries that have access to technology and those that do not tends to widen.

The session will discuss the potential impact that national AI strategies will have on the use of AI for development, identifying good practices and promising regulatory approaches. It will also identify gaps and make proposals on how to strengthen the development aspect.

Relevance to Internet Governance: National AI strategies provide the frameworks for the future development of AI on policy and regulatory terms. They also indirectly influence technologies that underpin and enable the development or AI, such as big data and algorithm decision-making.


Break-out Group Discussions - Round Tables - 60 Min

Description: This session engages in a productive discussion on existing national strategies and other exploratory documents (white papers, research papers) for artificial intelligence. A number of countries have developed or are developing national AI strategies that highlight areas of comparative advantage, areas of national priority, and potential scope for international cooperation. In our discussion, we focus on aspects of sustainable development and ask: what is already in place, what is missing, and what adjustments do we recommend to harness the potential of AI for sustainable development?

The session will start with a short introduction by session organisers providing an overview of national AI strategies and discussion documents, focusing on if and how these documents have been tackling the application of AI in their development strategies.

After this introduction, smaller discussion groups will develop their perspectives, keeping regional and local contexts and needs in mind. A facilitator will foster the discussion in each group, ensuring that the key policy questions that inspire the session will be discussed and that some concrete recommendations are formulated.

At the end of the session, a list of key points and recommendations will be compiled from each discussion group. This list will serve as a map to further the discussion around national AI strategies and country policies with a focus on sustainable development and AI for Good.

Expected Outcomes: The intended outcomes of the workshop are recommendations and key points that should enable further discussion around national AI strategies and the attainment of sustainable development. These recommendations should encourage a more comprehensive approach to AI technologies and responses by states to address sustainable development. The recommendations could serve as guidelines for states seeking to develop/upgrade national AI strategies, but also fulfill commitments set forward in the 2030 Agenda.

Onsite Moderator: 

Lee Hibbard, Intergovernmental Organization, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)

Online Moderator: 

Stephanie Borg Psaila, Civil Society, Western European and Others Group (WEOG)


Marco Lotti, Civil Society, Intergovernmental Organization

Discussion Facilitation: 

The main part of the session will consist of break-out group discussions, therefore participants will be a key component of the discussion and they will be the ones formulating recommendations.

Online Participation: 

The moderator of the session will ask for input from remote participants after the introduction. The remote moderator will facilitate an online debate similar to the discussion take will take place in break-out groups onsite.


GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships for the Goals