How the AI XPRIZE is Helping Achieve the SDGs

May 01 2018


In January 2016, the United Nations brought into effect a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals that, if achieved, would improve life in a way that is sustainable for the coming generations. From alleviating poverty to taking action on climate change, these SDGs cannot be achieved alone—they call people and organizations around the world to partner together in order to find solutions, and the XPRIZE Foundation is one such organization that has chosen to answer the call.

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition exists to develop AI solutions that work toward solving some of the most pressing challenges facing our world, which are closely aligned with the challenges addressed by the UN. The now 60+ competing teams are developing technologies that span all 17 of the SDGs, with each of their solutions having the potential to accelerate the achievement of one or more of them to lead our future into a new era of sustainability.

For instance, seven of our teams’ work will be a part of solving the UN’s Health and Wellbeing goal. They are developing technologies such as a deep-learning powered clinical decision aid for mental healthcare professionals, which will help clinicians select the most effective treatment plans for their patients. One team is creating an AI platform that will allow for accurate disease risk management, while another is developing a wearable device that will use AI to predict and prevent addiction relapses and overdoses. By developing these new AI technologies, our teams are making marked improvements to a healthcare system that will allow for better, more accurate treatments on a larger scale than we’ve ever seen.

Several of our AI XPRIZE teams are also working in ways that will address the “No poverty” and “Zero hunger” SDGs, such as our team that is using satellite imagery to predict and prevent crop disease, which accounts for nearly 50 percent of total global crop loss. Or the team who is using AI to protect our honeybees, which are a pillar of ecosystem health and global food security. These AI uses will change the lives of millions of people, and ultimately lead us to a more sustainably prosperous world.

We have a team creating an augmented dialogue system to democratize learning for youth around the world, which will progress the UN’s Quality Education goal, and a team making a technology that automatically separates recyclables from landfill waste at the point of disposal to help build more Sustainable Cities and Communities. The breadth of goals our teams are working to solve can be seen in the graphic below.