Connecting the Next Billion: How Artificial Intelligence Can Help

Amazing conversations happen when Marconi Society Chair and Google Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf gets together with Nokia Bell Labs President Marcus Weldon. Their discussion about using artificial intelligence (AI) to connect the next billion people to the Internet is no exception.

Here’s the backdrop:

Roughly 60% of the world’s population does not have access to the Internet.

Internet access is now considered to be such a fundamental right that it is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 9 states the intention to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.”

Consider the following data points from the United Nations:

  • Basic infrastructure like roads, information and communication technologies, sanitation, electrical power and water remains scarce in many developing countries
  • Quality infrastructure is positively related to the achievement of social, economic and political goals
  • Inadequate infrastructure leads to a lack of access to markets, jobs, information and training, creating a major barrier to doing business
  • Undeveloped infrastructures limits access to health care and education
  • For many African countries, particularly the lower-income countries, the existent constraints regarding infrastructure affect firm productivity by around 40 per cent

The next billion will connect to the Internet in a completely different way than the first four billion did.  From a network perspective, connectivity will be wireless and powered by new technologies such as 5G. People will use this connectivity for both traditional voice and data applications, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) applications for health, education, safety and commerce.

AI and machine learning will make the Internet uniquely accessible to the world’s 750M illiterate adults, two-thirds of whom are women. From voice recognition and response to translation to humanistic feedback, AI changes the traditional interaction between people and the Internet.