The role of artificial intelligence in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals


The emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and its progressively wider impact on many sectors across the society requires an assessment of its effect on sustainable development. Here we analyze published evidence of positive or negative impacts of AI on the achievement of each of the 17 goals and 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We find that AI can support the achievement of 128 targets across all SDGs, but it may also inhibit 58 targets. Notably, AI enables new technologies that improve efficiency and productivity, but it may also lead to increased inequalities among and within countries, thus hindering the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. The fast development of AI needs to be supported by appropriate policy and regulation. Otherwise, it would lead to gaps in transparency, accountability, safety and ethical standards of AI-based technology, which could be detrimental towards the development and sustainable use of AI. Finally, there is a lack of research assessing the medium- and long-term impacts of AI. It is therefore essential to reinforce the global debate regarding the use of AI and to develop the necessary regulatory insight and oversight for AI-based technologies.

Nature Communications, accepted