AI for Good blog

3 Ways AI can be applied to achieve the SDGs

Artificial Intelligence | Ethics

By Justin McCall 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds the potential to solve some of society’s biggest, most pressing challenges. 

AI is poised to deliver transformational benefits in nearly every sector. Across the world, we are already seeing AI adoption drive societal benefits in these fields: 

  • Transportation – Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) are already demonstrating the potential to improve vehicle safety. 
  • Healthcare – Using advanced AI techniques, bio-medical researchers are increasing pace of drug discovery by identifying chemicals, molecules, and compounds that may best be targeted to specific diseases. 
  • Finance – AI techniques are allowing financial services companies to better identify fraudulent or corrupt activities.  
  • Insurance – AI applications such as computer vision are enabling faster claims processing and damage assessment. 
  • Climate change – AI techniques are advancing weather prediction and are critical to the decarbonization of our energy system.  

However, the “artificial” in AI also presents risks and adverse impacts to society because it takes some of the human element out of the equation. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has developed a set of AI Ethical Principles to guide how to use and develop responsible AI that has beneficial outcomes for people, businesses, and public services. Glenn Leon, Chief Ethics Officer at HPE provides a good overview of AI Ethics in his blog, Innovation in the Ethics of AI. 

Here are three ways, when developed ethically and applied responsibly, that AI can help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):  

1. AI as a Catalyst 

We can achieve complex goals with multiple stakeholders, disciplines and skillsets. We came to realize that we had three components at HPE that we had to provide support to: (1) those who were incorporating AI technologies into our HPE Products to enhance them; (2) those who were adopting AI technologies in our processes to improve customer experience, team members and partners; and (3) finally partnerships which build upon the HPE portfolio to deliver AI technologies and AI driven outcomes.  

2. AI: Augmenting Intelligence  

 In the context of the “AI for Science” conversation we’ve been having between Labs, the HPC/AI BG, and the US National Labs. We started the “AI for Science” conversation as a way to ask: “what’s next after exascale?” We realized that we wanted to learn more about what was the deep effect that pervasive use of AI would have on the pursuit of science. In that conversation we are talking about learning from massive data sets and then improving product or process.  But beyond that, we are also looking across data siloes and disciplines for correlations that may be hiding “in plain sight”. This is augmenting the intelligence of the researcher, not attempting to replace it. 

3. AI as a Solver  

That is solving for the operational efficiency of complex scientific instruments spanning from edge to Exa scale, or solving the complex behaviors or physical, social or economic systems themselves. This has the potential to demark scientific eras, changing not only what science aspires to tackle, but the way in which science views itself. The SDGs are complex challenges that span the entire gamut of physical and social sciences and all of them would seem to be admirable cases to test the potential of pervasive AI, especially when coupled with a robust set of AI Ethics Principles. 


What can industry players do to ensure AI and social impact for the SDGs?  

It is key that policies and standards underpin AI ethics efforts, including HPE Global Human Rights Policy, HPE Privacy Statement and as mentioned, the HPE AI Principles. The next step is to focus on how HPE can most efficiently and effectively put these principles into practice; identifying and mitigating risks before the technology is put into use. 

This Infographic shares more information about how HPE contributes to being a force for good. It is important to track progress, and our Living Progress Report (LPR) brings the focus on our efforts towards sustainability.  

How can industry help to support the AI start-up ecosystem? 

The rapid pace of technology advancement in AI necessitates a vibrant start-up ecosystem in which many new ideas can be tested and developed. At the same time, however, the broad-reaching impacts of AI mean that for new technologies and applications to deliver broad-reaching benefits, they need to be supported by established organizations with a track record for responsibly, safely, and reliably supporting technologies in enterprises and civic society.  

HPE recognizes this important synergy in the commercial ecosystem for AI, and we have several active programmes to strengthen it: 

  • AI Advance – Within our HPC & AI Business Unit, we have established a start-up partnership program aimed specifically at building deep technical relationships with early-stage AI start-ups, including helping them navigate the broader set of programs across HPE. We recognize that many of the most innovative AI technology start-ups expand very quickly in their early stages, and we are engaging early in their lifecycles to ensure they can develop and scale in ways that most benefit a broad set of public and private customers. 
  • Pathfinder – HPE’s venture team has a strong history of investing in innovative start-ups across the technology ecosystem, including investments in AI companies like Flywheel, Mythic, Weka, Tamr, DataRobot and Lightmatter. AI start-ups continue to be a priority for Pathfinder, leveraging HPE’s deep insight into the technology space and partnering with AI Advance to accelerate delivery of solutions to our customers, we support start-ups that show strong promise for future growth. 

Learn how technology can scale to feed the world. Watch the webinar with HPE here.

International cooperation to ensure AI benefits all  

When HPE joined ITU as a private sector member last year, it joined ITU’s diverse membership from industry and government. International cooperation is important among these sectors. HPE engages with the WEF Agile Governance Global Future Council to encourage regulated industries, their government industries and the public to move beyond adoption of technologies like AI and RPA. This is an attempt to make their compliance to today’s static governance model more efficient, but also to leap forward to a dynamic, iterative, governance model through software engineering, which can only be achieved through international cooperation.  
Explore how AI can accelerate the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world. Visit the AI for Good SDG Gateway for an interactive experience on AI for the SDGs.

Head of Demand Generation and Partnerships
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE)