Advancing AI responsibly

Global perspectives on inclusive AI
Introduction by Natasha Crampton, Chief Responsible AI Officer at Microsoft

Artificial intelligence has the potential to be a powerful equalizing force, helping people, institutions, and nations make strides forward in ways and at speeds previously unimaginable. We are already seeing AI used to make essential government services more accessible, witnessing major breakthroughs in disease detection and prevention, and leveraging AI to identify and prevent the effects of natural disasters and climate change. All this is happening in the early days of AI being more widely available, especially generative AI.  

Yet, as we have witnessed with other major technological breakthroughs, just because AI holds potential to address some of the world’s greatest challenges, that outcome is by no means assured. We know who has a voice in developing and advancing the technology matters, and we know that cultural context and respect for local values are critically important as we seek to deploy AI systems that harness the best of people and AI. If we hope to realize the potential of AI, we must be deliberate in our efforts to bring more voices and perspectives into the dialogue around AI policy and governance, and we must do that now, at the beginning.  

Last year, Microsoft partnered with the Stimson Center to bring a greater diversity of voices to the conversation on responsible AI. The Global Perspectives Responsible AI Fellowship brings together diverse stakeholders from civil society, academia, and the private sector for substantive discussions on AI, its impact on society, and ways that we can all better incorporate the nuanced social, economic, political, and environmental contexts in which these systems are deployed. 

This is vital work. Earlier in 2023, according to UN estimates, the global population exceeded 8 billion people, the vast majority of whom live in the Global South. We’re all encountering a major technological transformation, and we must make it a wave of transformation that benefits the Global Majority. I’m encouraged by the prospect that thoughtful, context-aware uses of AI might help build more vibrant communities around the world and empower nations to leapfrog traditional steps in conventional models for economic development.  

By working to understand and incorporate the nuanced social, economic, political, and environmental contexts in which AI systems are deployed, developers can be champions for inclusivity and ensure the benefits of these systems are shared widely. This is particularly important for foundation models, where there is an opportunity for global perspectives to inform and ensure the utility of these systems as they are being developed. 

To bring together the necessary perspectives to understand and address these issues, we conducted a comprehensive global search for fellows. We landed with a dynamic class of fellows from a range of countries—Chile, Tajikistan, India, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia, Serbia, Mexico, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Turkey, and Kyrgyzstan. During the program, fellows exchanged ideas that can help promote AI efforts that are inclusive and consider the unique challenges and opportunities faced by the Global South. The stories of these fellows, many of which we will share in this series, illustrate the many ways in which AI is having a transformative impact around the world. 

These ideas can help promote AI efforts that are globally inclusive while considering the unique challenges faced by the Global South.
Natasha Crampton
Chief Responsible AI Officer at Microsoft

In this three-part series, we will present the issues at hand, put forward ideas to harness the benefits of AI applications and mitigate their risks. We will also share key insights about the responsible development and use of AI in the Global South.   

For Microsoft, I am most excited about learning from these global insights and applying them to our efforts to advance AI responsibly. In 2023, we worked with the fellows to inform our approach to developing the AI Blueprint for India and to showcase responsible AI case studies which we hope will contribute constructively to broader discussions around AI policy. 

This is only the beginning, and I am eager to further elevate the work and perspectives of the fellows. I am grateful to my colleagues Hiwot Tesfaye and Max Scott from the Office of Responsible AI for their leadership in making this fellowship a reality and their commitment to bringing a greater diversity of perspectives to the daily practice of responsible AI.