Canada has forged a well-earned reputation as a global leader in artificial intelligence. In March 2017, we became the first country to launch a national strategy for AI as part of a five-year, $125-million plan to invest in research and talent.
But competition in this space is fierce. We are now one among many countries with national strategies, and companies worldwide that are competing for the best talent and innovative solutions.
One way to maintain global leadership is by collaborating with like-minded actors in developing countries who have thus far not been sufficiently engaged by peers in the Global North. This would not only allow Canadians to scale up their work for global reach but make us a leader for the effective and responsible development of AI.
PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that AI will boost the world’s gross domestic product by US$15.7 trillion by 2030. Although only 11 per cent of those gains are expected to occur in developing countries, AI will have a profound impact — both positive and negative.
On the upside, AI could augment healthcare delivery, help farmers produce more and better crops,and revolutionize education models. But risks include job losses as well as threats to privacy, civil liberties, democracy and human rights.
AI also risks magnifying existing inequality if the unique context of each region is not considered. In an era of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), AI can either accelerate the achievement of the goals, or entrench existing gaps.
Some organizations interested in engaging with developing countries may be unsure where to start. To help, the International Development Research Centre collaborated on a map of the AI ecosystems in developing countries.
It includes more than 600 actors —among them, hundreds of startups, university teams, social sector organizations, accelerators and investors across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
IDRC is also supporting the establishment of a network of AI researchers and innovators in sub-Saharan Africa that will explore how AI can help achieve the SDGs.
But developing countries are not waiting for the Global North to come to them. They are already developing AI at a rapid pace. Canada has a choice – to stand up as a partner of choice for overlooked regions, or miss out when other countries beat us to it.
This article originally appeared in Canada.com