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AI and the Global South

Predictive analytics are being developed and deployed at an unprecedented pace and scale, including in developing countries that are still in the midst of their own digital revolutions. Yet, for all the promise that these technologies hold, many risks have yet to receive the attention they deserve.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Recent months may well be remembered as the moment when predictive artificial intelligence went mainstream. While prediction algorithms have been in use for decades, the release of applications such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT3 – and its rapid integration with Microsoft’s Bing search engine – may have unleashed the floodgates when it comes to user-friendly AI. Within weeks of ChatGPT3’s release, it had already attracted 100 million monthly users, many of whom have doubtless already experienced its dark side – from insults and threats to disinformation and a demonstrated ability to write malicious code.

The chatbots that are generating headlines are just the tip of the iceberg. AIs for creating text, speech, art, and video are progressing rapidly, with far-reaching implications for governance, commerce, and civic life. Not surprisingly, capital is flooding into the sector, with governments and companies alike investing in startups to develop and deploy the latest machine-learning tools. These new applications will combine historical data with machine learning, natural language processing, and deep learning to determine the probability of future events.

Crucially, adoption of the new natural language processing and generative AIs will not be confined to the wealthy countries and companies such as Google, Meta, and Microsoft that spearheaded their creation. These technologies are already spreading across low- and middle-income settings, where predictive analytics for everything from reducing urban inequality to addressing food security hold tremendous promise for cash-strapped governments, firms, and NGOs seeking to improve efficiency and unlock social and economic benefits.