IFIP IP3 Vice Chair and Founding Chair of IFIP’s Global Industry Council, Stephen Ibaraki, played a pivotal role in the development and delivery of the first AI for Good Global Summit. The following article was written for IDG IT World by David P O’Leary and is reprinted with permission.

I am just back from the first and largest of its kind, UN ITU XPRIZE Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Good Global Summit held 7-9 June 2017 in Geneva touching 300 plus million, influencing 1 billion, and meaningfully impacting 7.2 billion via more than 30 global media, social media, and television crews, including a documentary crew.

If you have not done so already you want to get over to the summit website and view the rich collection of content there created by the top leaders and minds in AI, civil society, 21 UN organizations, governments, industry, academia, and media.

Just a few of the notable speakers and participants were: Peter Norvig head of research at Google, Peter Lee Corporate Vice President of Microsoft AI and ​Research, Margaret Chan Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Pedro Domingos Professor of Computer Science and Engineering ​at the University of Washington, Jü​rgen Schmidhuber​​, Scientific Director, Swiss AI Lab, IDSIA; Professor of AI, USI & SUPSI, Switzerland; President of NNAISENSE, Andy Chen Board Chair at IEEE Computer Society, and Vicki Hanson​, President of ACM, and Distinguished Professor of Computing at the ​Rochester Institute of Technology. As I said just a few and many more at http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/AI/Pages/201706-default.aspx

The Summit sought to speed the development of, and access to, AI solutions to address global challenges ranging from poverty, hunger, health and education to equality and environmental sustainability. In my last article, I challenged everyone including all in the business world to deliberately embrace AI in a way that results in good outcomes. Thanks to the leadership of the XPRIZE Foundation CEO Marcus Shingles, ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao and its Director of the Standardization Bureau Chaesub Lee, a solid foundation is now under construction for the world and every enterprise to build upon.

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The Journey for AI for Good

How did this historic summit come to happen in 2017 Geneva?

Working side by side with the ITU and XPRIZE AI leadership, IDG-IT World author Stephen Ibaraki was a key contributor to the realization of the Geneva Summit. Stephen developed his initial interest in AI in the 1980s when he developed a core application technology for Atomic Energy of Canada; update to 2012 when Ibaraki interviewed Jeff Dean, Senior Fellow at Google who mentioned his interest in Deep Learning (the current rage in AI).

From this experience, Stephen decided to spend over a year researching with a focus on disruptive innovations largely centered on AI for a keynote in May 2016 for the largest international conference in software engineering. Leading up to his keynote, Stephen was invited by the President of the UN in New York for the UN WSIS Review with the general assembly. He introduced AI into the review process in July 2015 and then arranged a briefing for technology heads of all UN agencies in October 2015 on AI and Big Data planting seeds for AI and the SDGs.

In early 2016, Stephen was invited to join the Audi Beyond Initiative private global think tank of more than 40 world top experts. The Beyond Initiative is a new undertaking brought to life by Audi’s Rupert Stadler and dealing with the social impact of artificial intelligence. Its goal is to make sure that AI is used for the benefit of society. The Beyond Initiative is convinced that the changes that AI will bring are fundamental and can only be addressed in an interdisciplinary setting. To this end Stadler invited the world’s top 40 interdisciplinary experts working on AI, including Ibaraki, to Beyond.

Primed with input from many committed and expert sources Ibaraki met with the ITU to share his experiences on global innovation in May 2016 and the importance of AI on the SDGs and global economies. Later, seeing the synergies between the two, Ibaraki introduced IBM Watson AI XPRIZE into working with the ITU.

This leadership led to writing on AI for Good for the UN ITU and taking on the role of Chairman Outreach for the new ITU ICT Discoveries academic journal with the first issue focused on AI.

Still in 2016, in quick succession, Ibaraki chaired and keynoted an entire day at the UN ITU-T 60th Anniversary Digital Financial Services session and ending with the AI session highlighting AI for Good. The venue was the UN ITU World Telecom Standardization Assembly (WTSA–setting global standards and held every four years). The AI for Good movement has started in earnest. This was repeated at the annual flagship UN ITU Telecom World (for government, industry, academia) and Kaleidoscope (for academia) events including submitting three papers in November.

AI for Good Global Summit takes on 20 UN organizations partners and 30 media

Leveraging his leadership roles with the ACM (top computing science org), IFIP (top computing science federation), IEEE (top engineering org), FSR (top financial services trade organization), Digital Africa (empowering Africa with technology), and many more, Ibaraki supported the ITU and XPRIZE in connecting the dots to global authorities in AI.

Accelerating to his April 2017 pre-summit briefing at the United Nations Headquarters New York, AI for Good Global Summit founder, organizer on steering committee, and outreach chairman, Stephen Ibaraki, stated “The impacts of AI are going to be profound and they are happening faster than most people expect. Moreover, AI will power the information and communication technologies (ICTs).” As keynote speaker at the New York UN HQ, Mr Ibaraki, opened the briefing by updating attendees on the current state of play of AI, pointing to recent developments in tracking poverty using convolutional neural networks and extending medical care through automated diagnosis well as highlighting future areas of greatest opportunity. See more here and here. The briefings amplified the interest in AI for Good.

AI for Good Global Summit sets a world mark

Prior to the opening, of the resulting UN AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva this month, Stephen briefed a press roundtable with Audi Chairman Stadler and ITU-T Director Lee, his focus was the synergies between the Audi Beyond Initiative think tank (invited 40 top international experts) and the AI for Good Global summit, based on his role as a founding member of both.

Ibaraki began the official day 1 by Opening the UN ITU XPRIZE AI for Good Global Summit, introducing UN Secretary General Antonio Gutiérrez, XPRIZE Foundation Founder Peter Diamandis, UN ITU Secretary General Houlin Zhao, XPRIZE Foundation CEO Marcus Shingles; concurrently Ibaraki was keynoting on AI for Good at the Digital Africa Conference in Nigeria (he had pre-recorded his keynote). Throughout the three days of the Geneva Summit it was clear that Mr. Ibaraki was absolutely accurate in his assessment of the current and near future world impacted by AI. He reviewed the benefits to developing countries in the live interview with Newsday (BBC World Service) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054kktp (from the 33:00 mark).

I would be hard pressed to think of one area of human existence and endeavor that was not addressed in some form in one of the many plenary and breakthrough sessions in Geneva. All of these were live streamed and are now archived and available for you at https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/AI/Pages/webcast.aspx.

The value to enterprise, governments

If you want your enterprise to prepare for the disruptive tsunami of AI (Ibaraki calls this a Digital Quake) will bring to your doorstep then take the time to review this deeply important material from the world’s top minds in AI and its potential for good in our world. Note though, that while AI for good is the theme – the threats and potential destructive power of AI are also discussed. This material is critical for you as an enterprise leader to know and understand. Once you see it you will, without a doubt, join me in asking the ITU to continue this forum on an annual basis providing all of us with a forum for understanding the potential of AI on the futures of every one of us.

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AI for Good: key takeaways

“AI is probably the most important technology the human race will ever create, to allow us to create a world of abundance … to create a world in which we uplift every single human on the planet.” – Founder and Executive Chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation, Peter H. Diamandis

AI needs you: Marcus Shingles, CEO of XPRIZE, highlighted the growing and important role that artificial intelligence (AI) will play in solving the world’s biggest challenges – so long as individuals can participate in its experimentation.

AI for sustainable development: How can AI work to achieve the SDGs? There are already some use-cases of ‘AI for good’, including scalable, affordable and personalized education for all and WHO Director General, Margaret Chen, looked at how it can help achieve a healthier planet. Meanwhile, IBM announced ‘Science for Social Good’, a new programme that partners IBM researchers, postdoctoral academic fellows and nonprofits to address the UN’s 17 SGDs through data.

…and for Auto: Audi CEO, Rupert Stadler, called for a discussion about self-driving car ethics as he kicked off last week’s Summit with a powerful keynote.

But questions remain: As we prepare to reap the massive benefits of this ‘Golden Age’ of AI, it is critical that privacy, security, and ethical questions are brought to the forefront. AI’s impact on standardization must be considered too.

And now, a healthy reality check: “We are not nearly as close to strong Artificial Intelligence as many believe,” Prof. Gary Marcus told the Summit.

You can see from this brief timeline of the creation of the UN AI for Good Global Summit that AI is gaining momentum in all aspects of our world and in particular in the enterprise. If you are still wondering if your business should start looking at AI and its implications in your space the answer is an unqualified YES.

Thanks to the vision and leadership of the ITU, XPRIZE Foundation, and our own Stephen Ibaraki we have an established platform upon which to build AI for the benefit of all human kind.

You can have a look at photos from the Summit here. The Summit website provides deeper links to multiple interviews, sessions and a rich selection of material that will benefit your business for years to come.