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Team Europe and partners gather to discuss AI’s potential to transform development cooperation


Visiit Brüsselis
Today’s conference in Brussels explores how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used ethically to revolutionise international development cooperation.

The conference was organised by the Estonian Centre for International Development (ESTDEV), Enabel, and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. 

Digital development is an integral part of many of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) set out in the 2030 Agenda, such as enhancing the quality of education (SDG 4) and fostering innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9). Emerging AI technologies have the potential to accelerate progress toward achieving the SDGs, as they can analyse vast amounts of data, predict outcomes and automate tasks. 

Participants at today’s event in Brussels will explore AI’s potential to enhance the efficacy and scope of international cooperation projects while looking for potential areas of cooperation with African partners. The event also aims to address ethics, inclusivity and governance issues associated with AI to ensure its deployment meets global values and objectives.

Artificial intelligence is part of Estonia’s digital story. Since 2018, Estonia has implemented over 130 AI projects in 61 public sector institutions to raise accessibility, enhance user experience in public services and make governance more effective.

“Our recent experience with transforming public services with AI has proved that it is possible to innovate responsibly and inclusively.  We have put AI to work for the benefit of the people, for example, in tax filings and health records management, significantly reducing administrative burdens and improving citizen satisfaction,” Executive Director of ESTDEV Klen Jäärats said during his opening speech in Brussels.

AI for development cooperation in the Global South

The recent African Union Summit highlighted the AU’s AI strategy, emphasising the need for cooperation that considers Africa's specific challenges and opportunities.

As development cooperation delves into AI, Jäärats said these technologies must be developed with a strong ethical foundation prioritising transparency, fairness, and accountability.

“Our focus in Africa is to support digital transformation that fosters open, inclusive societies. We advocate for the use of open-source technologies to ensure sustainability and independence for our partner countries. Still, we are fully cognisant that without a strong vision and political will, a dream of a digital society with a transparent governance structure will be just that,” Jäärats added.  

Katrin Winter, ESTDEV’s regional head for Africa, said that collaboration between African and European nations in AI is already fostering innovation and bolstering the exchange of experiences between both continents.

“In African countries, the ambitions and objectives for AI are both bold and transformative, reflecting a continent-wide aspiration to harness digital technologies for sustainable development. African nations are increasingly recognising the potential of AI to address some of their most pressing challenges,” Winter said.

Event organisers Enabel and ESTDEV are collaborating on various digital projects as part of the Digital for Development (D4D) Hub and Team Europe. The D4D Hub will be closely involved in the event follow-up.