United Nations University (UNU)

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The United Nations University (UNU) is a global think tank and postgraduate teaching organisation headquartered in Japan. The mission of the UN University is to contribute, through collaborative research and education, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States.

Description of Activities on AI

Project 1: Global Antimicrobial Resistance Evidence – A One Health Rapid Review

WHO (2020) has identified increased human risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) resistance as a top ten urgent health problem for the next decade. While AMR occurs naturally, the WHO (2015) has found that humans are at increased risk of developing AMR due to increased, inappropriate or unnecessary antibiotic use for medical treatment or in industries such as agriculture. AMR additionally is further facilitated by actions, practices, behaviors, or lack thereof with regards to poor sector practices that result in the uncontrolled release of AMR organisms into the environment, as well as limited surveillance and stewardship efforts to address AMR exposure from health services, industry, and the environment comprehensively. Historically, AMR stewardship efforts focused primarily on health policies and practices to prevent and reduce AMR risk to society, the economy, and the environment. Using a text mining approach, over 12,000 title/abstracts have been reviewed to provide a rapid review and historical analysis of the past three decades of AMR research. It highlights how human health, animal health and industrial research and development increasingly have increasingly received greater attention in scientific endeavours. There, however, remains a significant gap of knowledge of the impact of AMR research and interventions with regards to the environment – especially, with regards to water-related exposure pathways. This research unpacks such gaps of knowledge in consideration of the need to develop a one health AMR stewardship framework that adequately addresses environmental water-related AMR risks.

Project 2: Cholera Risk Mapping – An Outbreak Analysis Approach in Nigeria

Cholera is an ancient disease that continues to plague vulnerable populations, especially in Asia and Africa (Troeger et al. 2017). Extremely virulent, it is endemic in 51 countries with an estimated global $2 billion USD lost per annum due to health care costs and lost productivity, with Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for the majority of burden (Ali et al. 2015; WHO 2017). While cholera is preventable (through increased WASH access) and treatable (through rehydration therapy), it kills an estimated 95 000 people annually, while a further 1.3 billion are at risk globally (Ali et al. 2015). Adding to these concerning statistics is the expectation that climate change will increase global climatic suitability for the transmission of cholera (Watts et al. 2019; WHO 2020a), thereby putting more people at risk of this highly infectious disease. Ending cholera is an important global health priority as cholera risk disproportionately aligns with populations experiencing extreme poverty and displacement due to post-conflict or disaster situations (Hassan and Nellums 2021; WHO 2017). In 2017, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Task Force on Cholera Control (GTFCC) established a multi-sector strategy to reduce cholera deaths by 90 percent and to eliminate disease transmission in 20 countries by 2030 (WHO 2017). Key to the multi-sectoral intervention is the effective coordination of WASH and public health resources amongst cholera-affected countries and local and global partners to prevent cholera through long-term WASH investments and oral vaccination and to contain outbreaks through early detection and rapid response.

The objective of this project is to develop a model-based risk mapping tool for cholera which separately evaluates outbreak probability, outbreak transmission efficiency and population susceptibility to severe health outcomes based on a range of health, environmental and climatic, infrastructural (including WASH), and demographic data. Greater understanding of the interaction of different disease outcomes and variables and can inform the integrated development of multi-sectoral cholera control efforts. The tool will be presented as a spatial index-based decision support system that can be adapted: to visualize multiple dimensions of cholera risk; and for use in different countries to help inform context-appropriate allocation of public resources.

Project 3: Enhancing Resilience to Flood Disasters in South Asia through the use of AI, Cloud Computing and Open Datasets

WHO (2020) has identified increased human risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) resistance as a top ten urgent health problem for the next decade. While AMR occurs naturally, the WHO (2015) has found that humans are at increased risk of developing AMR due to increased, inappropriate or unnecessary antibiotic use for medical treatment or in industries such as agriculture. AMR additionally is further facilitated by actions, practices, behaviors, or lack thereof with regards to poor sector practices that result in the uncontrolled release of AMR organisms into the environment, as well as limited surveillance and stewardship efforts to address AMR exposure from health services, industry, and the environment comprehensively. Historically, AMR stewardship efforts focused primarily on health policies and practices to prevent and reduce AMR risk to society, the economy, and the environment. Using a text mining approach, over 12,000 title/abstracts have been reviewed to provide a rapid review and historical analysis of the past three decades of AMR research. It highlights how human health, animal health and industrial research and development increasingly have increasingly received greater attention in scientific endeavours. There, however, remains a significant gap of knowledge of the impact of AMR research and interventions with regards to the environment – especially, with regards to water-related exposure pathways. This research unpacks such gaps of knowledge in consideration of the need to develop a one health AMR stewardship framework that adequately addresses environmental water-related AMR risks.

Project 4: UNU-Macau Conversation Series Seminar

UNU-Macau Conversation series seminar invited top researchers and thought leaders in Digital Technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Modeling for Sustainability. The following seminar has been more specifically on AI:

  • Dr. Christiine Boshuijzen-van Burken (UNSW) Multi-aspectual Ethics of Autonomous (weapons) Systems
  • Dr. Omar Guerrero (Turing Institute), Modelling Sustainable Development from the Bottom Up: Coupling Open Data and Agent Computing to Inform Policy Prioritization
  • Dr. Nils Ferrand: Codesigning and Politing Inclusive Participatory Procedures for Enacting the SDGs

Conversation Series:

Project 5: “Sustainable Decision-Making Tech” Research Team

The “Sustainable Decision-Making Tech” research team started his activities in 2021 at UNU-Macau. Sociotechnical systems – like telecommunication networks, power grids, large-scale manufacturing systems – are interacting ensembles of engineered artifacts embedded in society, but also linked with economies and connected with the environment. As these complex socio-technical systems emerge, Artificial Intelligence (AI) acquires an important societal dimension. AI has played an important role in achieving meaningful development and innovation across the world, bringing several positive impacts, such as automated diagnoses of diseases, growing efficiency in the workplace, and assistive technologies for education. However, at the same time, AI could potentially be used as a dangerous tool of oppression, discrimination, and surveillance. Many researchers point out ethical and legal concerns related to accountability, transparency, and responsibility in designing and using AI for different social sectors. In this context, multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (UN) need to play a key role in building a framework and guideline for the sustainable development of AI.

Along with the UN-wide efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, this research team explore sustainable and inclusive decision-making socio-technical systems designs, which are conducted with the people, not only for the people. The current research activities include:

AI Governance & Ethics: This research aims to provide a participatory approach towards the design, implementation, and sustainability of AI governance in the health sector that embraces ethics where all key players from technical, civil society, public sector as well as the private sector are on the same decision-making table. The main objective of this research is to deliver an AI Governance model that embraces ethical values at its core.

Diversifying and operationalizing AI narratives :

The team aims to conduct a cross-cultural analysis of AI narratives to build an inclusive AI discourse, focusing on government policy papers on AI in East Asia. The results of this research will be developed into a serious game to showcase alternative AI narratives.

The researchers are part the DESC coalition (Digital-Environment System)and involved as co-leads in the IDAIR Next Pandemic scheme: https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/we-must-seize-the-moment-for-a-global-pandemic-surveillance-and-response-scheme to develop next generation of tools based on Artificial Intelligence and modular models for the next pandemic response and preparedness.The research team will expand its activities and recruit more researchers in 2022.

Related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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