The development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies hold tremendous promise for much of the world, including the Global South. For example, in areas where effective medicine is too expensive or inaccessible, these technologies may lower the costs and ease of access while simultaneously engendering better outcomes. These systems can help to maximize the value of limited government resources in areas where government services are unequally distributed, and provide critical services to those most in need. In areas of political and economic strife, AI-based technologies can serve as early-warning systems, alerting governments, NGOs, international organizations, and multistakeholder organizations about impending humanitarian and human rights crises.
Even the most optimistic accounts of what novel emerging technologies can do to improve the quality of our lives have to consider and address a set of important barriers (let alone more fundamental issues with assumptions about technology’s role in society). For instance, there are always differences between the promise of technologies and their implementation within complex, highly contextual real-world applications. And despite the opportunities these technologies may offer, there is a real risk that — without thoughtful intervention — they may in fact exacerbate structural, economic, social, and political imbalances, and further reinforce inequalities based on different demographic variables (including ethnicity, race, gender, gender and sexual identity, religion, national origin, location, age, and educational and/or socioeconomic status).