UNESCO launches Women4Ethical AI platform

Ensuring equal representation for women in AI design & deployment


April 28, 2023

/ By / New Delhi

UNESCO launches Women4Ethical AI platform

UNESCO has launched Women4Ethical AI to promote the role of women

In order to promote the role of women in decision making regarding the future of artificial intelligence, UNESCO has launched Women4Ethical AI, a platform dedicated to this objective.

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In line with its work to implement global ethical framework for artificial intelligence, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has launched Women4Ethical AI, a new collaborative platform to support governments and companies’ efforts to ensure that women are represented equally in both the design and deployment of AI. According to a press statement released by UNESCO, the platform’s members will also contribute to the advancement of all the ethical provisions in the UNESCO’s recommendation.

The statement adds that at a time when digital technologies are reshaping everyday life, women are under-represented in the research and design of these technologies, their needs and experiences are also overlooked by designers, and the data used to train AI is often biased against women and girls. Today, globally, women and girls are 25 pc less likely than men to know how to leverage digital technology for basic purposes, four times less likely to know how to programme computers and 13 times less likely to file for an ICT patent.

UNESCOP says that only 20 pc of employees in technical roles in machine learning companies, 12 pc of artificial intelligence researchers globally and 6 pc of professional software developers are women.

“There is an urgent need to rebalance the situation for women in AI to avoid biased analyses and to build technologies that take into account the expectations and needs of all of humanity,” says Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO.

Missing women of AI

To solve this problem, UNESCO has put gender equality at the heart of its report, Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, the first global standard-setting instrument in this area, that was unanimously adopted by its 193 Member States in November 2021. This document, which is a concrete roadmap for states in establishing their AI policies, plans to adopt a gendered approach to all aspects of AI, says the statement.

To accelerate the implementation of this objective, UNESCO created Women4Ethical AI, a collaborative platform to support governments and companies’ efforts. The platform unites 17 leading female experts from academia, civil society, the private sector and regulatory bodies, from around the world. They will share research and contribute to a repository of good practices. The platform will drive progress on non-discriminatory algorithms and data sources, and incentivise girls, women and under-represented groups to participate in AI.

“With this network of dynamic and committed women, we will make real progress to ensure inclusive and fair outcomes on Artificial Intelligence, as set out in UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of AI,” says Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO Assistant Director-General of Social and Human Sciences and co-chair of the platform.

“We must place ethics and equality at the forefront of the AI governance discussion and commit to implementing ethical recommendations as a vehicle to protect human rights, fundamental freedom, and human dignity,” says Alessandra Sala, Director of AI and Data Science at Shutterstock and co-chair of the platform.

Among the tools proposed to ensure the inclusion and empowerment of women at every stage of the AI life cycle are budgetary allocations and the provision of support to women in research, academia, and entrepreneurship.

Biased data leads to discriminatory outcomes

The development, use and deployment of AI systems risks replicating and amplification existing gender biases and creating new ones, says UNESCO, adding that a lack of diversity in data, programming teams or approaches leads to biased AI tools that propose discriminatory outcomes. These outcomes are used to take important decisions that impact the everyday life of citizens. One example of the harmful impact of biased data is when medical diagnoses are based on evidence collected only from men, says UNESCO.



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