Thursday, July 9, 2020

Paula Hidalgo-Sanchís: "New technologies must be directed towards the common good"

“ The Sustainable Development Goals show the complexity of the challenges facing humanity at this time, and also its scale. There have never been 7 billion people living on Earth and with such a high percentage of poverty. Never in history have we had dynamics that we cannot stop and that continue to produce inequality or pollution. Poverty is getting more complicated. It is no longer about whether you cannot buy or eat, but whether you live in a certain neighborhood in China, you cannot breathe fresh air. ”

The diagnosis of the director of Pulse Lab Kampala, Paula Hidalgo-Sanchís, is not kind, but her 19 years of experience in humanitarian action and sustainable development policies in more than 20 countries give her rigor. Her passion is undeniable, and so is her confidence that innovation can help in battle.

Pulse Lab Kampala is part of Unites Nations Global Pulse, the UN innovation initiative on big data, and has a clear mandate: take advantage of big data as a public good and generate tools for social impact from the different laboratories of the project (New York, Jakarta, and Kampala).

They often have the collaboration of “brilliant” professionals with a social vocation who give up better salaries in technology companies for getting involved in projects capable of generating impact.
Pulse Lab Kampala has developed, for example, an artificial intelligence application to automatically identify elements with satellite imagery and monitor the growth of informal settlements.

"For once there is no difference between the north and south of the planet, there are leading initiatives in both Denmark and Tanzania," he admits.

Another project is a tool that, also with the help of artificial intelligence, extracts information relevant to the SDGs with a transcription of public radio conversations into texts in African languages. In Uganda, as in other neighboring countries, radio is used as a social network, and a tremendous amount of quality data can be collected in real-time.

“ Right now access to mobile phones is much faster than access to drinking water or a dingo job in many countries around the world. This represents a tremendous wealth of data that can be used. By analyzing human mobility data in natural disasters you can know very quickly where people are and where they have gone, and better support the necessary response, ”he explains. The usefulness of these tools goes beyond the international cooperation sector. "It can inspire development plans also at the national level," adds Paula Hidalgo-Sanchís.

The role of the company is key to achieving sustainable progress due to the quantity and quality of the data they process. For them to have a social outlet, collaboration with international organizations, governments and NGOs must be sought.

“Companies often don't know the value of that data, they don't know how to analyze it. And we must speak to governments because a very important branch of our work is privacy policies. We must promote legal frameworks for the ethical use of big data and artificial intelligence. There is still a great legal vacuum at the national level ”, says Hidalgo-Sanchís, who is favorable to the fact that once the legal framework and the usefulness of these data for the common good have been solved, companies agree to sell them to cover the expenses generated by internal processing.

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