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Next Step and AT4D Join Hands to Unleash Ethical AI’s Potential For People With Disabilities 


A new partnership between the Next Step Foundation and the Assistive Technologies for Disability Trust (AT4D) aims to overcome key obstacles impeding the ethical development and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) to drive sustainable development in the global south. By addressing gaps in data availability, quality, skills deficits, and the ethical/social implications of AI, this collaboration seeks to boost the use of technology to support persons with disabilities.

At the partnership’s launch event, Philip Thiago, a UN High-Level Advisory Board Member on AI, expounded on AI’s immense potential to accelerate progress toward Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He commended local startups’ efforts to leverage innovations that can alleviate inequality, especially for persons with disabilities and the elderly.

Thiago highlighted that the UN advisory board is spearheading initiatives to foster an inclusive AI agenda through its interim report ‘Governing AI for Humanity’. This guideline identifies key principles like inclusivity, public interest primacy, centralized data governance frameworks, and ensuring universal buy-in from nations and stakeholders to shape new global AI governance institutions.

“Kenya stands out as one of the few countries developing an admirably inclusive national AI strategy. At the UN level, we aim to construct a multi-stakeholder, ecosystem-driven approach by addressing core enablers for safe, trusted, and inclusive AI ecosystems – with data governance being crucial,” Thiago remarked.

Meanwhile, Next Step Foundation’s Executive Chairman Christopher Harrison underscored the organization’s unique capacity to facilitate high-quality annotated training data creation and bridge AI skills gaps across Africa. The continent presently grapples with data scarcity and expertise deficits hindering wide scale, ethical AI rollouts.

“As a continent, we must harness the wealth of data at our fingertips across sectors like agriculture, education, and geography. Digitization lays the crucial groundwork to make this data accessible and empowering for persons with disabilities to enhance their participation in society,” Harrison stated.

The event showcased innovative solutions from startups incubated by Next Step like EZspeech, Seizure Assistant, Knock Knock, and Signverse – demonstrating AI’s transformative potential when paired with robust data and localized capacity-building initiatives.

This timely Next Step-AT4D partnership underscores the urgent need for collaborative efforts to equip the global south with the resources, governance frameworks, and skills to unleash AI as a driver of inclusive, sustainable development across sectors.

As AI’s influence over decision-making processes intensifies worldwide, ensuring developing nations can participate meaningfully in shaping their trajectory is pivotal to mitigating risks and maximizing positive social impacts aligned with the SDG agenda.



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