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Thursday Recap

Importance of ‘Lived Experiences’ in AI

AI – or, artificial intelligence – is only as good as the information fed into it, agreed panelists in the Thursday morning plenary session, “Misinformation and the Use of AI: What’s SBC Got to Do with It?”
And computers can’t do all the work. It is critical to put human “lived experiences” into the equation as well.
“AI is a tool,” said Medhi Snene, interim CEO of the International Digital Health and AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR). “It depends on the intention of the user, rather than anything else. The AI does not have any intention. … It’s a technology. It depends on which hands we’re putting it into.”
Christopher Mahony, the CEO and co-founder of Peloria, spoke of a project he is working on in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The AI told his team that there was a correlation between standing pools of water and increased risk of violence. That seemed to make no sense, he explained, but then you look at the bigger picture.
Having people on the team who understood the dynamics on the ground helped them determine that those standing pools of water, where mosquitoes breed and proliferate among the most vulnerable, were proxies for poverty.
“You know, those are the people that are least able to provide some bribe or give some chattel to (violent) groups when they come into town,” he said. “And so therefore, they’re disproportionately subject to violence, right?”
Without the perspective of human experience, AI cannot be its most intelligent.
“Lived experiences form better AI models,” said the panel’s moderator Anurug Banerjee, CEO of Quilt.AI.
It’s important to distinguish between misinformation – the spreading of incorrect facts – and disinformation, the intentional spread of false information, the panel agreed.
But Jamie Arkin, director of partnerships and development at AIfluence, said that is not her only concern.
“There’s misinformation and then there is a lack of information,” she said. “How can we fill the information gap? Can we teach people about fact-checking?”
Everyone is at risk of sharing misinformation, she says, even intelligent and well-meaning people who may pass along information that speaks to their own biases.
She pointed to the example of a statistic spread on Instagram recently, which essentially said, “15,000 with people in Iran are being put to death because they protested for women’s rights.” This was constantly in her feed, being shared by influencers and celebrities. It sounded scary. It turns out that 15,000 people were arrested, yes, but they are not likely to be put to death. So now, with this information, suddenly the spread of “facts” became the spread of misinformation. Most people don’t want to spread misinformation, but often they are.

The Global South

Thursday afternoon’s plenary, “Beyond the Margins! SBCC Challenges, Opportunities, and Synergies: A Conversation within and across the Regions in the South,” featured a dynamic conversation on SBCC challenges, opportunities and synergies. Panelists representing regions in the South highlighted the great diversity, complexity and varying challenges local communities face. The panel was moderated by Adelaida Trujillo and Ana Carrapichano

“We need to focus on behavioral and social data and use science to inform our decisions and interventions,” said UNICEF’s Dorina Andreev, who represented South Asia on the panel. “For policy making, we need to advocate strongly with our governments. How can we support them? How can we build sustainable data systems that can inform and show progress over time?” 

Added UNICEF’s Neha Kapil, representing the Middle East and North Africa: “We need to expand our range of approaches and tools to speak better to the realities if each region, recognising the diversity of income, fragility and governance systems across different states. In MENA we want to strengthen how we organise and collaborate as institutions and individual experts to address capacity, data and resources gaps to leverage the power and potential of SBC for development and humanitarian results.”
Representing Latin America and the Caribbean, Jair Vega Casanova of the Univesidad del Norte said his region has a vast diversity and richness: “We have a lot to bring to the table and don’t need to accept something imposed on us.”
On the importance of direct collaboration with communities, Sara Nieuwoudt of the University of the Witwatersrand and representing Africa, noted that in SBCC, we need to be talking directly with the communities we work with, as well as media, religious leaders and governments. 

“Those of us in Africa who are part of different networks and regions, we need to take each other’s names and numbers and do a mapping of where we are and where we stand,” she said. “And start having conversations about how we can be more strategic about our needs.”