Children Left Out Of Many National AI Strategies

Children interact with or are impacted by AI systems that are not designed for them, and current policies do not address this, according to a new UNICEF draft policy guidance report on children and AI.

AI systems are increasingly being used by governments and the private sector in education, healthcare and other welfare services. Therefore these machine-based systems that, given a set of human-defined objectives, can make predictions, recommendations, or decisions that influence real or virtual environments, are difficult to avoid. Also for children.

While in the last few years, over 60 countries have released a range of AI policy initiatives, most of these make only cursory mention of children. This also goes for at country like – for instance – Denmark.

What Does your national AI strategy say about children?

Earlier this summer UNICEF analysed 20 national AI strategies and found that most make only a cursory mention of children and their specific needs. In Denmark, Canada and France, for example, there are zero mentions (check yourself).  In Germany there are 403 and in the India 464.

This means that Denmark –  the most digital country in Europe – give next to none attention to safeguarding the rights of children in a welfare economy and society in which algorithms are becoming increasingly influential. And children are interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) in a myriad of ways!

Nine Recommendations

In the draft policy guidance report on children and AI UNICEF recommend that governments, policymakers and businesses that develop, implement or use AI systems meet the following nine requirements for child-centred AI. The nine requiremesnts are further elaborated in the draft report. The basis is the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),24 which sets out the rights that must be realized for every child, that is every person under the age of 18, to develop to her or his full potential:

  1. Support children’s development and well-being Let AI help me develop to my full potential
  2. Ensure inclusion of and for children Include me and those around me
  3. Prioritize fairness and non-discrimination for children AI must be for all children
  4. Protect children’s data and privacy Ensure my privacy in an AI world
  5. Ensure safety for children I need to be safe in the AI world
  6. Provide transparency, explainability, and accountability for children I need to know how AI impacts me. You need to be accountable for that
  7. Empower governments and businesses with knowledge of AI and children’s rights You must know what my rights are and uphold them
  8. Prepare children for present and future developments in AI If I am well prepared now, I can contribute to responsible AI for the future
  9. Create an enabling environment Make it possible for all to contribute to childcentred AI

Public Consultation

The draft policy guidelines report is made in partnership with the Government of Finland (who has 657 mentions). Now they seek input from stakeholders, who are interested in or working in areas related to the fields of AI and children’s rights. Stakeholders can express their views on the draft guidance and provide feedback and comments by 16 October, 2020. The next version, which will include input from the public review, will be released in 2021.

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