Up until now, AI continues to draw mixed reactions over its potential effects currently and in the future. Despite both optimism and skepticism on technological innovation, the tools and solutions are undoubtedly getting better. However, almost all activities regarding AI and other new tech innovations are steered by developed countries. There’s barely any concerns regarding this disruptive technology in developing nations and least developed countries (LDCs). These countries are yet to participate in any industrial revolution, being only ‘consumers’ of the results of these revolutions. Now is their time to participate!
Computing technology and the internet have significantly developed with most input from the developed nations. As a result, these nations have stood to benefit more, with results to show for their participation. The penetration of computing and the internet in developed countries is far much ahead compared to that of developing countries. Africa alone recodes a 40% internet penetration, 20% less than the world average. This means that over half of the population has no access to the internet.
While the continent has embraced computerization and the internet, the fact that it did not significantly participate in developing these technologies made it fall behind in adopting the tools and solutions, thereby falling behind in the digital divide.
The potential impact of AI in comparison to computing and the internet could be enormous, to say the least. AI is fueling automation and making processes more efficient. But again, major players in developing this technology are from the developed world. The LDCs are seemingly falling behind again. This pattern could be crucial for the future economy and its society’s wellbeing. Are we willing to grow together or leave others or otherwise be left behind? What are the consequences? How can we change to manage the situation? AI is fast rising, and we all need to be part of this development.
The Impact of Inequality in Tech Development
The United Nations (UN) reports that the world faces an uphill task addressing inequalities. Some reasons for such disparities are due to tech innovations. AI and similar innovations in this new industrial revolution are making workers’ skills obsolete. Instead of creating more opportunities like previous innovations, they may leave several without jobs. AI is enhancing productivity but is also likely to keep many out of the contribution to economic growth. Thus, technology and inequality may be more tightly knighted than we imagine.
Regarding technology, most developing countries have high levels of inequality. It is only recently that most of these countries’ economies have experienced accelerated growth. Most LDCs are recording reducing levels of extreme poverty and increased inclusion of the population to participate in the economy. This growth can be attributed to the catch-up activities by these countries to computing technology and the internet. Thus, leaving these countries behind in the creation of this new industrial revolution can be devastating, not only to their economies but to the global economy too.
Not Left Out
Developed countries are not exempted from the risk of an economic recession with AI’s rising. Unlike in the case of previous innovations, this new industrialization is focusing on eliminating inequalities even harder. Thus, leaving others behind in its development is quite the irony. It is, therefore, the responsibility of those at the frontline in developing the technology to create a pathway for inclusivity for all people, allowing them to participate in developing AI and related tools and solutions.
Counting the Cost for Sidelining the Developing World
Populations in the developing world are growing rapidly while the growth in developed countries flattens. The population in developing countries is also younger compared to that of industrialized countries. Moreover, these less industrialized countries are experiencing an increasing level of wealth as they benefit from the advancing industrialization with the adoption of innovative solutions. Since most of the people in these LDCs rely on agricultural activities as significant sources of employment and also on industries, automation could cause them to shed off numerous job opportunities and set people back on the path to extreme poverty.
The population of developed countries is aging fast, and these countries could experience a shortage in the supply of human resources soon. While it may be argued that this trend complements the new industrial revolution, which will require lesser human labor due to automation, the larger populations (making up the majority at that time) may feel disadvantaged and hurt by the technology. The pattern may result in dissent and fallouts, eventually giving rise to political unrest and instability, with the global economy stalling as a result.
The cost of sidelining the developing countries from contributing to AI and related innovations’ development will overwhelmingly advance inequality. AI’s primary form of learning is through training using sampled data. Thus, all-round development of AI must well represent the real-world setting. Leaving the developing nations out of the development of AI could result in negative impacts. First, since the sampled data omits much of the population in the developing world, AI tools and solutions may learn to have biases and thus discriminate against LDCs. Second, the technology may not perform adequately for the population in developing nations as little, or no training data from these regions make the AI less ‘intelligent’ to perform as would have if fed with more training data.
Consequently, AI is likely to serve fewer people effectively in the future. Most of the developing countries will have been left out of the development, and this crucial population set to be the majority in the future could well make the technology obsolete. More other possible outcomes exist, but it is arguably costly to sideline the LDCs in AI development, so we have to rethink our approach to developing AI sooner.
On the Flipside
AI has the potential to accelerate economic growth. Automation can help boost productivity among developing populations, thus enhancing industrialization. However, to achieve this futuristic goal, AI tools and solutions must be designed to work for the masses, not just a select group. Engaging developing nations in the development of AI and related tech innovations could enhance planning efforts to ensure that the benefits of the new technology are well distributed and wealth concentration to a few individuals limited.
So, Are Developing Nations Ready?
Little is often portrayed regarding progress made by developing countries in industrializing their economies. Much focus goes to highlighting their ‘backwardness’ in social, political, and economic methods. These misguided representations of the countries create a derogative notion over them, justifying their exclusion from participating in developing new technologies like AI.
Developing nations should participate and are ready to participate in this new revolution. So, are the stakeholders (those at the frontline) prepared to guide them in the process? Or will we wait to react after the impact befalls us? We have this choice to make at this early stage of the new era. The technology of the future, one that is famed for improving our way of life and resolving human errors, must show these qualities of unbiased and fairness, even during the development stage.
LDCs have an opportunity in this revolution, to quickly industrialize and catch up with the rest of the world. AI and other technologies in this new industrial revolution will help these countries rapidly sort out their infrastructure issues. Besides, access to automation will help the countries make up for the limited expertise and skills, and quickly industrialize. To achieve this, unity and inclusivity in AI must be reassessed before the technology goes mainstream, taking over the majority of operations globally. We must remember that AI is for making our lives future-proof, and without bias, we all have a responsibility to take part in achieving the goal for our future.