Societal Thinking at the Skoll World Forum

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Last week, I attended the Skoll World Forum. I met some truly optimistic people from around the globe who are solving some of the world’s most complex problems. I participated in conversations that made me pause and reflect. And, best of all, I felt enveloped in the collective warmth and energy of 1,400 people who care about a better world and are on a quest to get there.  As they say, “‘T’was in the air”. While the panels were insightful and the opening acts wonderful, what the Skoll team did best was creating spaces to catalyse interactions – interactions that transcended geographies, cultures and domains of work.

My colleague Sanjay Purohit and I hosted two conversations on AI for exponential change, i.e., change that inspires more change. The development sector was slow to climb aboard the mobile and the Internet boats. And now that we have an AI boat in front of us, we want to make sure we all get on. In one conversation, we hosted about 50 people and presented some of the work we have been doing on building domain-specific AI models that can help first-mile users, for example:

  • frontline healthcare workers who can access the right knowledge today (not 17 years later, which is the time it usually takes for medical knowledge to reach them)

  • smallholder farmers who can access innovation applicable to their small plot of land based on the data that exists about their land

  • villagers who live in a disaster-affected or disaster-prone area to be able to ask for what they need to rebuild their lives and become more resilient to disaster risks.

In our second session at the Skoll World Forum, we hosted a delegate-led gathering for 20-25 people from diverse domains and countries around what they are doing to ‘catch the AI boat’. Some interesting perspectives emerged, some similar, some diametrically opposite; but all of us agreed that a lot of energy needs to go into bringing a conversation on ‘AI for good’ front and centre. We are hoping that more development sector gatherings pick up this thread, more people start thinking about and building use cases for ‘AI for good’ and that exponential change is sparked for people at the first-mile.

Over the next few months, you will see some examples emerge from our camp with Stay tuned!

About the Author

Priya Ajmera

Chief Evangelist, Societal Platform