#ai4children workshop recap: Helsinki

The second in a series of regional workshops designed to develop policy guidance for AI that protects child rights

Steven Vosloo
30 November 2019
This work is part of UNICEF's AI for Children project
2 minute read

As part of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Children Policy Project, UNICEF, in partnership with the Government of Finland, is hosting a series of workshops around the world to gain regional perspectives on AI systems and children. These conversations will help UNICEF develop a policy guidance on how to promote children’s development in AI strategies and practices.

The second workshop was held in Helsinki, Finland, on 26 November 2019, with participants from Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, the United Kingdom and Turkey. Various sectors were represented, including UNESCO, the UN Technology Innovation Lab, LEGO, Turkcell, Vodafone, PwC UK, the Alan Turing Institute, Children's Commissioner for England, and academics from a range of European universities. The Helsinki workshop agenda and information from the kick-off workshop in New York in June 2019, provide further background.

Workshop participants collaborating
UNICEF/Bettina Köbler

The half-day workshop was opened by Jarmo Sareva, Ambassador for Innovation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Finland, and Jussi Kivipuro, Development Director, UNICEF Finland. Ambassador Sareva highlighted Finland’s ongoing commitment to ethical AI. Finland is actively supporting the recommendations in the report of the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation. Ambassador Sareva confirmed that as part of these efforts, Finland is proud to partner with UNICEF to ensure the realization of child rights in the digital sphere.

Taking place on the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Mr. Kivipuro reminded the group how much has been achieved for children since 1989, and how the authors of that remarkable document could not have imagined the extent to which AI would begin to shape children’s lives. He noted that the workshop was the start of a journey to determine whether, in the future, children will own their identity and data or whether it will be owned by someone else; whether children get to utilize wonderful digital products or whether they are the product themselves.

Since most attention around AI is on government policies and industry implementations, the workshop participants were asked to use these lenses to provide feedback on the draft UNICEF principles for AI and child rights, challenges to more child-friendly AI policies and practices, and suggested topics and format for the AI policy guidance as detailed below. In many cases the feedback from a government or business perspective could easily apply to the other.

View or download the full workshop report