AI for GNEC and NGOs
Kwaku Aning and Kevin Merges
This article is adapted from an original article for educators:
One of the struggles of NGOs, especially smaller NGOs, is the ability to keep up with the pace of change. Jevons Paradox creates an issue where we need more technology resources as we become more efficient at using the current apps, tools, …. Many of us have the experience of finally making the time to learn a skill, use a tool, embrace a new social media site, … only to have it become “old-school”, eliminated by a corporate decision, or not updated for current operating systems. This article hopes to present some of the emerging technologies and how they might be useful for NGOs.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making a lot of news with sites and services like ChatGPT, Lensa, and DALL-E. These tools can respond to questions, create/alter images, and write phrases or longer statements through application of AI. NGOs might find these tools interesting for their ability to generate drafts of copy for blogs or marketing content, or images and ideas to go in marketing materials. This technology is just an extension of the grammar check and predictive text we already use in many programs. This could be a cost savings and a time savings. Machine learning algorithms are able to data-mine large sets of information to make decisions about the text, image, or response being created. When looking at all the information available for computers to study we can see how there might be untrue information or altered images being included in the datasets. We need to use caution and not trust the machines to do everything for us as the AIs often generate confident responses, but not always correct. An analogy might be home repairs where you could leave for two weeks and let the contractor do whatever they want, or you could look at plans, buy the materials you want, and have them in the house for the contractor when they arrive to help you get what you really want out of the project. It might be useful to read Futureproof by Kevin Roose which offers strategies for thriving during the period of technological change, and The Big Nine by Amy Webb offering scenarios regarding some of the larger companies using AI.
NGOs could organize reading groups in Readocracy where the AI analyzes text and videos seen by group members, and eventually the credits will become micro-credentials. ProfJim uses AI to create quizzes and assignments for teachers based on their textbook, and historical figures can be generated to deliver lessons if requested. This type of tool could easily be adjusted in the future to teach SDG lessons with an avatar of the UN Secretary General. DARPA is currently funding AI tools to improve adult learning which should inform K-12 platforms in the future and offer NGOs greater opportunities to understand how their constituent learn. The advancements in these areas seem to be accelerating and NGOs need to consider emerging technology as an integral portion of the information they offer their constituents.
NGO leaders need to prepare for an entanglement of technological advancements. We should expect a transition from digital badges to digital certificates cryptographically verified in a
blockchain. Over 1,000,000 digital credentials, from almost 60,000 providers, have been offered in the last five years. NGOs need to consider how they could use platforms like
Convergence to issue their own credentials to participants learning about the work of the NGO, the SDGs targeted by the NGO, or any information shared during sessions and trainings.
The fourth industrial revolution and Web3 are combining with the launch of low-earth-orbit satellite networks (LEOs). These networks are emerging at the time when 5G and IoT
technologies are also building out. There is significant potential for the digital divide to increase. Soon, wireless internet connections will be ubiquitous on the planet. The availability
of knowledge, past and newly created, through high-speed networks could afford NGOs an opportunity to engage new constituents in many geographic areas. Leaders need to recognize
the difference between the emerging technologies and not get overwhelmed by the entanglement that is sure to occur.
Apple seems to be targeting the fall of 2023 for the release of their XR device and xrOS. This could enable people to see information in a manner similar to the displays in the movie “Free
Guy”. This will create new VR & AR discussions in many areas. Apple was not the first tablet, but the iPad changed many conversations and accelerated the digital divide. The blending of
the emerging technologies is a place of great opportunity, and anxiety for some. People will worry about Terminator scenarios where Skynet becomes self-aware, but my mother (well into
her 70s) gets email recommendations for tickets to Taylor Swift and P!nk tours, so I believe AI still has a ways to go. NGOs have the opportunity to embrace new technologies that make
sense for their mission and be aware of the technologies not needed for the goals they want to achieve.
Kwaku Aning (San Diego Jewish Academy) and Kevin Merges (Rutgers Preparatory School) are co-founders of Virtual Research. They are working with GNEC to develop a series of webinar for
this spring that will share information about some of the emerging technologies extending on the webinar last year Education During Emergencies. Any comments or feedback would be
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The Global NGO Executive Committee (GNEC) was founded in 1962 to promote a closer working relationship between the United Nations and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with it. GNEC acts as a liaison between the NGO community and the UN's Department of Global Communications (DGC). GNEC provides strategic guidance to help NGOs become more effective partners of the UN.
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