International Telecommunication Union (ITU)


International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

Description of Activities on AI

Project 1: The AI for Good Global Summit

The AI for Good Global Summit series identifies practical applications of AI with the potential to accelerate progress towards the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Close to 40 UN organizations are partners of the AI for Good Global Summit. Now in its fourth edition, this year’s AI for Good Global Summit is being held online all year, and will continue to connect AI innovators with public and private-sector decision-makers in the interests of stimulating the discovery and delivery of “AI for Good” solutions for all. The “digital bouquet of flowers” has been arranged into three streams (Build, Learn, Experience) with the following service offerings:

Project 2: Compendium of UN Activities on Artificial Intelligence

Since 2018, ITU has issued the “Compendium of UN Activities on Artificial Intelligence”, aiming to introduce activities being carried out by the UN system. This year, the Compendium will be more extensive, by including additional details (e.g. identifying AI tools and datasets used) and will be tagging to form an AI capability catalogue.

Project 3: Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Health (FG-AI4H)

The ITU-WHO Focus Group on Artificial Intelligence for Health (FG-AI4H), driven in close collaboration by ITU and WHO, is working towards the establishment of a framework and associated processes for the performance benchmarking of ‘AI for Health’ algorithms. The group is currently working on 20 topic areas (“use cases”) addressing health issues including breast cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, autism, vision loss, skin lesions, cardiovascular diseases, and venomous snakebites. A summary of the current status of the work was published in The Lancet – “WHO and ITU establish benchmarking process for artificial intelligence in health” – a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal which is among the world’s oldest, most prestigious and best known general medical journals.

Project 4: Machine Learning for Future Networks including 5G

AI / ML (machine learning) will shape how communication networks, a lifeline of our society, will be run. Many companies in the ICT sector are exploring how to make best use of AI/ML in their networks in order to optimize network operations, increase energy efficiency and curtail the costs of operating a network. ITU has been at the forefront of this endeavour exploring how to best apply AI/ML in future networks including 5G networks. ITU has been at the forefront developing standards adddressing Machine Learning’s contribution to communication networks. Leading this effort has been the ITU Focus Group on Machine Learning for Future Networks including 5G (FG-ML5G) which has concluded a Machine Learning toolset for communication networks comprising ten technical specifications, including interfaces, network architectures, protocols, algorithms and data formats. About half of these specifications have already been turned into ITU standards (“ITU Recommendations”), with the rest following. The key standard of this toolset – ITU Y.3172 – describes an architectural framework for networks to accommodate current as well as future use cases of Machine Learning.

Project 5: Digital Review

AI could be used during the process of making and distributing television and radio content. It is now being used to optimise workflows for broadcasting programme making, to improve audio and visual quality evaluation, to efficiently utilize the frequency spectrum in television and radio distribution and recently even to create new programmes by mining archives as well as automatically targeting content to specific audiences or individuals.

For example, AI is being used for extracting content from vast archives; automatically localising content for international distribution; and generating access services such as captioning, audio description, text to speech and signing far faster and far more accurately than could be achieved in the past.

ITU has studied artificial intelligence systems for programme production and exchange for which a report is published (Report ITU-R BT.2447).

Project 6: Focus Group on AI for autonomous and assisted driving (FG-AI4AD)

The ITU Focus Group on AI for autonomous and assisted driving (FG-AI4AD) supports standardization activities for services and applications enabled by AI systems in autonomous and assisted driving. FG-AI4AD studies the behavioural evaluation of AI (when it is responsible for the dynamic driving task of a vehicle), in accordance with the 1949 and 1968 Convention on Road Traffic of the UNECE Global Forum for Road Safety.

To build public trust it is fundamental that the performance of AI on our road meets, or exceeds, the performance of a competent and careful human driver. The FG aims to create international harmonisation on the definition of a minimal performance threshold for these AI systems (such as AI as a Driver). This work has the potential to facilitate adoption of AI on our roads and aims to reducing road injuries, which are already the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5–29 years (more so than HIV and tuberculosis). In fact, AI can play a significant role to reduce 1.3 million road deaths and 25 million injuries (SDG 3.6) occurring each year, whilst also encouraging safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems (SDG 11.2). However, the widespread and socially acceptable deployment of AI on our roads is dependent upon technology achieving public trust.

Project 7: Focus Group on Environmental Efficiency for AI and other Emerging Technologies (FG AI4EE)

The ITU Focus Group on Environmental Efficiency for AI and other Emerging Technologies (FG AI4EE) is studying environmental efficiency in the age of AI, increasing automation, and smart manufacturing. The Focus Group aims to provide guidance on the environmentally efficient operation of emerging technologies, as well as the influence of these technologies on the environmental efficiency of the broader ICT ecosystem. The group’s work also supports ITU’s ongoing studies of the environmental requirements of IMT-2020 (5G) systems. FG-AI4EE is working on over 20 deliverables which cover topics related to requirements, assessment, measurement and implementation guidelines of the environmental efficiency of AI and other emerging technologies. Participation is open; there are no membership requirements.

Project 8: Global Initiative on AI and Data Commons

The Global Initiative on AI and Data Commons is a program and collaborative platform to support the implementation of beneficial AI based solutions to accelerate progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. A Roundtable on the Global Initiative on AI and Data Commons was convened at ITU headquarters on 30-31 January 2020, attended by around 100 participants (including AI specialists, data owners, and infrastructure providers from the private sector, academia, governments, UN agencies and standards bodies).

At the roundtable, two working groups (on repositories and on marketplaces) were established and one project was identified (Global AI services platform, initially introduced at an AI for Good Global Summit) to progress toward achieving the mission of the Global Initiative, summarized here. On 16 July 2020, as part of the AI for Good Webinar series, the Global Initiative launched the Global Data Pledge project to help identify, support and make available data as a common global resource.

Project 9: The World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF)

ITU will hold the sixth World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum (WTPF) in 2022, intended to help create a shared vision among policymakers on the issues arising from the emergence of new telecommunication/ICT services and technologies. The outcomes of the WTPF are non-binding Opinions agreed by multistakeholder consensus. The theme for WTPF-21 is “Policies for mobilizing new and emerging telecommunications/ICTs for sustainable development” and that the WTPF-21 would discuss how new and emerging digital technologies and trends are enablers of the global transition to the digital economy. Themes for consideration would include AI, IoT, 5G, Big Data, OTTs etc. and focus on opportunities, challenges and policies to foster sustainable development.” A multistakeholder informal expert group currently leads the 2-year preparatory process towards the sixth WTPF.

Project 10: Supporting the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB)

The UN CEB approved a “UN system-wide strategic approach and roadmap for supporting capacity development on artificial intelligence”- especially for developing countries, with particular emphasis on the bottom billion. ITU led the coordination of the strategic approach. ITU is currently leading the effort to map AI capacity-building efforts within the UN system, identify further gaps, and actions to be prioritized and addressed for the purpose of furthering the implementation of the Strategic Approach.

Project 11: AI for Good Repository

The AI Repository collects, and reports on, either planned or carried out AI activities and projects by governments, international organizations, the business sector, civil society, academia and other entities. The AI Repository contributes to achieving the UN SDGs by categorizing and matching these projects to the respective 17 SDGs.

Project 12: Interregional Emerging Technology for Development Week

The objective of the event is to promote the wide scale deployment of emerging technologies including, Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Big Data, low orbiting satellites, and 5G to ultimately contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. This event is planned to take place annually with a new theme each year focusing on specific emerging technologies and targeting a few SDGs. This year the focus will be on SDG 3 on Health and Well Being, SDG 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth and SDG 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. The rational is that due to the COVID-19 crisis a global recession has occurred that will have a negative impact on the global economy at large and developing countries. In addition, as economies are planning the new normal, investments will be made in emerging technologies. This event will be an opportunity to shed light on the different country experiences relevant to utilizing emerging technologies to combat the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. In addition, the event includes an interregional innovation challenge on artificial intelligence for tackling the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.

Related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)