Remarks by Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, World Economic Forum AI Event

As prepared for delivery

24 September 2020
A new multimedia learning programme is promoting literacy and social cohesion in Jordan.
UNICEF/UN0299581/Herwig
A new multimedia learning programme is promoting literacy and social cohesion in Jordan.

NEW YORK, 24 September 2020 – "Good morning, everyone.

"And thank you for including UNICEF in your important discussions today.

"Especially as AI systems are already part of children’s everyday lives.

"From social media recommendations. To their friend groups. To algorithms that can even predict their exam results.

"We also know that these impacts will only increase over time. Artificial intelligence will become an ever-greater part of children’s futures.

"It’s our job, as adults today, to ask ourselves: will this be for better or for worse? Will we see an AI-enabled future that supports every child’s full development? Or one that discriminates against some children?  

"Our collective actions on AI today are critical for answering these questions.

"Because for every challenge, we must also recognize the great potential of this technology to accelerate development — and help humanity.

"Unlocking these benefits means working together.

"This includes our joint work on digital co-operation, being led by the Secretary-General. The initiative’s roadmap offers a number of ways to gather partners together across the AI ecosystem, to ensure that this extraordinary technology serves, not hinders, humanity and the best interests of our youngest citizens.

"This means putting children at the heart of AI policies and systems.

"It means ensuring that AI works equally well for everyone.

"And it means crafting our policies around the needs and voices of children and young people themselves.

"Recently UNICEF, in partnership with the Government of Finland, and working with the Forum and many of you here, developed a draft Policy Guidance on AI for Children.

"Through that process, we consulted nearly 250 children. Each brought his or her unique hopes, concerns and ideas around AI.

"I’d like to share with you the words of a teenage girl from Chile, who captures very well the great opportunities of AI to empower young people. She said: “I am enthusiastic about the idea of being able to contribute to AI in the future, from my point of view as a woman, and to be able to study a career in this area in order to develop inclusive artificial intelligence.”

"When we talk about “Generation AI,” we need to keep young women just like her in mind. We need to ensure that the future we create, starting today, listens to her, meaningfully engages with her contributions, and provides her with the opportunity to have a career in AI. All while mitigating the risks and potential pitfalls of this technology.

"Let’s continue working towards this balance, and realizing the full potential that child-centred AI can deliver.

"We look forward to working together with all of you towards a Generation AI that is protected, educated and — above all — empowered to shape better futures for themselves, and for our world. Thank you."

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