Advanced technologies and artificial intelligence must have a human-rights based approach

UNESCO in collaboration with National Incubation Centre organized a webinar – “To Infinity… And Beyond!” on July 30, 2020. This webinar explored the inclusion of fundamental human rights while adopting advanced Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for development. Some 350 participants including youth, civil society and tech-startups attended this webinar.

It has been recognized globally that advanced ICTs and AI play a significant role in harnessing development opportunities. However, the use of advanced technologies raises many ethical issues leading to infringement of fundamental freedoms such as privacy rights, surveillance issues, information suppression, etc. These technologies also have the potential to exacerbate inequalities leading to a greater digital divide. To mitigate such impacts, UNESCO advocates that advanced ICTs are developed with a human-rights approach.

Welcoming the participants at the webinar, Ms Patricia McPhillips, UNESCO Representative Pakistan, said, “In order to make policies that first and foremost respect human rights, it is important for stakeholders to exchange knowledge, set ethical parameters and understand better, how technology functions”. During the webinar Ms. Nighat Dad, of Digital Rights Foundation explained human rights concerns surrounding AI and ICTs, in particular in emergency situations, including the Covid19 crisis. Ms Sadaffe Abid, founder of the Circle, explored the threat of gender and digital divides and its impact globally, including Pakistan. Ms Abid further stated, “Raising awareness among young girls regarding technology to leverage the participation of women in tech-ecosystem is critical”.  Mr. Parteek Sibal, of the Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO Headquarters , and part of the  AI team, explained the global debates surrounding the use of advanced technologies in promoting education, culture, science and information, adding that, “advanced ICTs have a huge investment potential and a lot of countries are investing in research and development, public-private collaborations, upgrading infrastructure, and teaching AI to children to support the advancement of technologies.”

Two Pakistani based start-ups contributing towards sustainable development goals in the country also spoke at the occasion. Mr Shahrukh Babar, founder of Xylexa using artificial intelligence to increase accuracy of medical diagnosis explained that, “use of advanced technologies can reduce the problems of medical practitioners and enhance their diagnosis.” While Ms Manzil e Maqsood, founder of Oxbridge Innovative Solution highlighted, “setting the platform for children to use advanced technologies at an early age can really help them adopt technologies at a later stage.” Oxbridge Innovative Solution enhances the learning processes of children by providing educational software. 

Further it was shared that one of UNESCO’s Global Education Coalition partners, the Technovation Idea Lab is offering a five (05) week online training course for girls from six countries globally, of which Pakistan is one. The training will focus on building their AI model; girls from Pakistan are highly encouraged to apply for participation. Girls participating in the programme will have the opportunity to participate in the 2020 virtual Technovation Summit in August. The summit will celebrate the families and girls around the world who are using technology to change their communities. The details of the programme can be accessed via: