Future and Emerging Technologies: Economic Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and McKinsey Global Institue (McKinsey)

Session 190

16:30–18:15, Thursday, 22 March 2018 Room K1, ITU Montbrillant Thematic Workshop Speakers/Panellists  Link to WSIS Action Lines  Link to SDGs 

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Economic Impact of Artificial Intelligence

In recent years there has been significant progress in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) technology that has been made possible by tremendous advances in other fields including big data, machine learning, computing power, storage capacity, and cloud computing. A number of applications of AI is already being tested and deployed in both the private and public sectors in areas as diverse as computer science, finance, business analytics, customer service, education, transportation, and healthcare.


It has been suggested that AI may also play an important role in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. To make this possibility a reality, the international community would need to define a common agenda that sets priorities on investment in AI both to scale up existing solutions and develop new ones. Collectively, there needs to be a better understanding of how to capitalize on the potential advantages of this technology, how AI might affect social-economic growth and development, and how well impact could be measured.


The different contexts in developed and developing countries needs to be taken into account. The impact of AI will not be felt everywhere and at the same time. The pace and degree of adoption of AI can depend on a number of factors such as the degree of digitization, competitive dynamics, transition costs, social acceptance, and regulatory frameworks. Some countries and sectors may therefore be in a more favorable position than others to adopt and leverage AI technologies, raising the possibility that some players and countries may reap benefits of AI at the expense of others.


This session aims to discuss the economic impact of AI, showcase where the potential lies, and home in on specific examples of sectors in detail. The discussion will also focus on how AI will impact on the progress toward the 17 SDGs, and help attain them. The session will also aim to generate a discussion on how businesses and policy makers can manage the risks and challenges associated with the economic impact of AI in relation to its impact on both economic growth and meeting the SDGs.


The discussion is part of ITU’s ongoing research on Economic Impact of Artificial Intelligence.




Catalin Marinescu, Head of Corporate Strategy Division, ITU


Jacques Bughin, Director and Senior Partner, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI)

Neil Sahota, IBM Master Inventor, IBM Watson Group (Remote)

Irmgard Nubler, Senior economist, International Labor Organization

Mary-Anne Williams, Professor, Director of Disruptive Innovation, University of Technology Sydney




Session's link to WSIS Action Lines

  • AL C6 logo C6. Enabling environment
  • AL C7 e-Gov logo C7. ICT Applications: E-government
  • AL C7 e-Bus logo C7. ICT Applications: E-business
  • AL C7 e-Lea logo C7. ICT Applications: E-learning
  • AL C7 e-Hea logo C7. ICT Applications: E-health
  • AL C7 e-Emp logo C7. ICT Applications: E-employment
  • AL C7 e-Env logo C7. ICT Applications: E-environment
  • AL C7 e-Agr logo C7. ICT Applications: E-agriculture
  • AL C7 e-Sci logo C7. ICT Applications: E-science
  • AL C10 logo C10. Ethical dimensions of the Information Society

Session's link to Sustainable Development Process

  • Goal 1: No poverty logo Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2: Zero hunger logo Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3: Good health and well-being logo Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all
  • Goal 4: Quality education logo Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  • Goal 5: Gender equality logo Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation logo Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy logo Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth logo Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure logo Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities logo Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities logo Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production logo Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13: Climate action logo Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Goal 14: Life below water logo Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
  • Goal 15: Life on land logo Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions logo Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals logo Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


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