UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week? Actually Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development

Source: UNESCO MLW

Today I had the pleasure to be part of the first day of the Mobile Learning Week (MLW) in Paris with its keynotes and discussion rounds. Last year the conference was focused on education in a mobile context with the focus on Skills for a connected world, as the MLW title implies. It seems, that this year it was hijacked by the trending ICT topic Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the education part was left out a bit. I can only assume why, but it seems that the UNESCO is shifting its focus and tries to spicy up their events with more buzzwords. AI is a trending topic and, besides its real significance, used most of the time to sell/promote things to people who have no glue about it. A couple of years ago it was the buzzword Blockchain Technologies to trigger interest and as far as I can remember, before that it was Cloud Computing. Yes, all of these technologies did or are changing the way we use and live with technology, but as before, most people are using the term AI more like this wonderful meme:



To be fair, AI and Machine Learning are much more than just statistics, read more here.

I am reporting from the MLW only from the first day, which is called “Principals for AI: Towards a Humanistic Approach” and the discussed AI topic fits more into this definition. To be fair, the next upcoming days will apparently stronger focus on education in combination with with AI and will have sessions such as “How can AI improve learning?”, “How can AI boost education and learning management systems?”, “How can AI be harnessed to reduce the learning inequitability?”, or “Will AI promote equity and gender equality?”.
Therefore, this blog post is not about Mobile Learning, but rather AI itself and summarizes some of the statements. I am pleased that at least some of the speakers were asking questions in the right direction and I hope this will continue in the upcoming AI-Education sessions. AI is happening and used world-wide, but as it is with every technology, it is just a tool and only gets a meaning or purpose when used by us. The question is not for what we should use AI and what it can do. This will be figured out anyway by the private and public sector due to demands by the market and the people. The real questions are:

  • Who is creating the AI, in which context was it created and what are their biases?
  • How transparent is it?
  • Who owns the AI and who has access to its tools?
  • Is it inclusive? Does it really mirror the society and context it is used in? (minorities, gender, sexual preferences, etc.)
  • How can we test and verify the decisions an AI takes for us?
  • Who is responsible for errors and accidents because of AI?
  • How democratic is the use of the AI? Who decided what we ask and for what we use it?

I am sure this list can be extended, feel free to do so, the more discussion the better. Please do not get me wrong, I favour AI and I am exited about the new possibilities AI offers, but I miss often a real discussion about pressing issues and questions. The buzzword topics Blockchain Technologies and Cloud Computing did not have the same impact capabilities as AI has. As a society we need to discuss how we would like to use AI in a democratic way. If we do not, then we will end up like China, where AI is used to control people in an unprecedented way. I personally want to live in a world were AI is enriching my freedom, not used to limit it or just to display me more fitting advertisement on Google or Facebook.

Furthermore, these questions are seldom asked for people in low-income countries. They are excluded from potential benefits of AIs already straight from the beginning. Our main goal must be to use AI to improve the lives of those who need it the most. For me, this would be a real intelligent use of Artificial Intelligence.

Here are some key statements I favoured during the key note and discussion rounds:

“Artificial intelligence is a false term, it’s neither artificial nor intelligent. It is created by us and it is our responsibility.“

“I work in many African countries and some of them have no freedom of press, no mandatory primary schools and a weak economy, but they develop an industry 4.0 and AI strategy for their countries. They don’t want to fall behind, but lack of the basics.”

“IEEE is currently working on Ethical Aligned Design for all who design technology and for the users as well. We work on how to put principal into practice, e.g. use standards to be implemented by the industry which have ethics at the core.”

“Behind every data point are actual people and we should not forget that.”

“Solidarity should be a core principal of AI.“

“African questions have to be taken into the context of an African problem. The design of an AI must take the people and their context into consideration”

“Many people say, that we need more women in AI”

“The current AI situation is reflecting the unfair distribution of wealth in the world. Definition, access and implementation are key.”

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UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week? Actually Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development
was published on 04.03.2019 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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Mobile Learning Week 2018

Mobile Learning Week is UNESCO’s flagship ICT in education event. Digital skills are critical for jobs and social inclusion in a universality connected world – an estimated 95% of the global population living in an area covered by at least a basic 2 G mobile cellular network [MLW Concept Note].

MLWs provide a platform to share and expand knowledge, innovations and good practices in mobile learning on an international base. It is an excellent event for exchanging knowledge about achievements in skills targeted to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). The conference is co-organized by UNESCO and International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for ICT.
Topic of the 8th MLW, scheduled from 26-30 March 2018 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris was “Skills for a connected world”, focussing on digital skills and competencies for a connected economy and society.

Presenters for the 17 workshops were selected from a wide range of international organizations, NGOs, governmental agencies, research, projects and digital skills development programmes. While Margarete participated in former MLWs, this year she was accompanied by Paul Spiesberger. Furthermore, Margarete was invited to participate in workshop-presentation together with Prof. Mohamed Ally from Athabasca University, topic: “Developing Females and Teachers’ Digital Skills in Ghana”. She reported our project implemented from 2012 -2014, pointing out the very successful follow up developments organised by students participated in our workshops. It is important to note that girls represented quite often the majority of participants in our workshops. This can also be observed when looking at their blogs, videos and photos. The outcome of our engagement in Ghana shows that inequalities and gender divides can decreased with similar activities in digital skills programs.

Download Margarete’s presentation here.

Included in Margarete’s presentation was also a follow up project of former participants. In cooperation with Django Girls ICT4D.at’s former workshop participants organize workshops on programming in Python, especially tailored for women. Attendees don’t need any previous knowledge about programming and there is no age limitation. Coaches, speakers or organizers are volunteers; one female and one male tutor are former participants in the project presented. Additional activities were organized as Barcamps, workshops for students of nearby schools etc. Read more here.

Margarete and Paul took their chance to discuss possibilities with experts from UNESCO (Steve Vosloo) and representatives from all over the world for future projects in partnership with ICT4d.at. They gained insights in outstanding projects and programs in various countries. Discussions about successful and independent activities of students brought up new visions and ideas, how the group in Ghana could be encouraged for further developments on a larger scale.

Next to Margarete also other outstanding project were presented eKitabu which “Delivers accessible digital content for quality education” and Room7 – a network for coding schools, are two great examples. We also discovered a very successful project from Brazil, Laboratoria, which trains “Female tech talent from Latin America to the world”.

Adapting MOOCs for local demands seems to be a promising option. ICT4D.at will continue with cooperation and work on this issue to increase the chance for youth in Ghana to develop digital skills independently. Visions are continuously discussed via Skype with of the Mobile learning Society. Together we continue to inform our readers about further activities in Ghana.





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Mobile Learning Week 2018
was published on 08.05.2018 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe, global
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