USING ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO ADVANCE MOROCCO'S NEW DEVELOPMENT MODEL AND THE RELATED SDGS
INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
Artificial Intelligence (AI) aims at building intelligent devices and robots to mimic tasks that are associated, a priori, with humans such as understanding, reasoning, seeing, singing, thinking, among others. To perform these tasks, the devices/robots must have knowledge about the world in which they are evolving and how they can manipulate it to perform useful tasks.
The adoption of AI has significantly accelerated over the last 5 years due to the prevalence of digital technologies and breakthroughs in algorithmic capabilities. Moreover, access to richer data and increasing computing power have contributed to AI’s acceleration. The most popular AI applications include chatbots, vision and image recognition, process optimization, and fraud analysis on transactional data. Emerging applications include:
Consumer and market segmentation
Call Centers and Virtual Assistants
Sentiment analysis and opinion mining
Face detection and recognition
Human resources applications such as resume screening or as related to agriculture, water management, education, governance, etc.
Despite emerging more than half a century ago, the field of AI is still relatively new, especially as it relates to its application in international development. In contrast to the exciting and promising opportunity that AI offers to developed countries, most developing countries have not yet fully embarked in the digital era. Most have not developed their
back-office components such as records/data related to the civil state, education, health, transportation, to name a few. This is a fundamental prerequisite to any AI application as related to development.
In many situations, Information Systems and AI have been adopted just for appearance’s sake, since it is the current
standard to have and to adopt analytics, Cloud technologies, big data and Chatbots, which do not necessarily fullfill any citizens’ need nor do they contribute to the global process of development.
The term AI4D (Artificial Intelligence for Development) has emerged in the last 5 years to refer to the application of AI
within the field of human and socio-economic development. It mainly addresses issues related to the digital divide and how to overcome it through applications that directly or indirectly benefit the disadvantaged population and improve their socio-economic conditions.
Unlike “mainstream AI”, where the main goal is to create software for business purposes, AI4D is about what should be
done to support human and socio-economic development, and how to achieve results. AI4D therefore has a profoundly moral agenda; it is not about the technologies themselves but with how they can be used to enable the empowerment of poor and marginalized communities.
Morocco, like most developing countries, is facing complicated development challenges. To overcome these challenges in a structured and efficient manner, the Moroccan Government has launched an ambitious national framework for a
New Development Model (NDM). The NDM seeks to accelerate progress and prosperity for all Moroccans by harnessing their full potential and energy and leveraging digital solutions.
The NDM provides for:
A citizen-centered approach to growth
A clear commitment to sustainable development
A modernized and responsive public administration and good governance
A proactive search for new solutions and opportunities
AI presents a promising opportunity for Morocco and provides additional tools to address national development
priorities, accelerate the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation, and achieve the UN
2030 Agenda goals within this NDM context. Development stakeholders are already utilizing AI to accelerate progress
toward achieving the 17 SDGs.
A widely cited study by a group of international and multidisciplinary researchers found that AI can conceivably enable 79% of the SDGs and can drive the provision of food (SDG2), healthcare (SDG3), water (SDG6), and renewable energies (SDG7) for populations around the globe.
However, “AI is unfortunately not a standardized ‘plug and play’ tool you can simply apply” to different programs in very different development contexts. For Morocco to access and harness AI for positive use, it needs to develop a better
and more robust understanding of AI technologies and their impact on global development. In addition, Morocco must
better understand AI’s relevance for and potential influence on Morocco’s current socio-economic circumstances and
plans its applicability and feasibility in the local context.
 AI and Human Development towards a Research Agenda, The International Research Development Center, Ottawa, 2018.
 See Artificial Intelligence in International Development, A Discussion Paper, the International Development Innovation Alliance, June 2019.
 For more cases, see the Global AI Repository, UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) at https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/AI/Pages/ai-repository.
 Vinuesa et. al., (2020) Vinuesa, R., Azizpour, H., Leite, I. et al. (2020). The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Achieving the Sustainable Development
Goals. Nat Commun 11, 233. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-14108-y
 Artificial Intelligence in International Development, A Discussion Paper, the International Development Innovation Alliance, June 2019
Al Akhawayn University and Engage-AI will host an immersive conference to enable the Moroccan public and private sectors, academia, and civil society, at national and international levels, to engage and debate some of the key
questions related to the relevance, purpose, and appropriateness of AI for Development. In Morocco’s case, the focus will be on its national NDM, and the diverse SDGs involved in this model.
The conference will provide the broad context of how AI is transforming daily life and how it is shaping our concept of what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and how it is used to address society’s most pressing global challenges. The conference will also focus on how to underscore local development priorities in health, education, public sectors, and employment in Morocco. Moreover, we will discuss the potential benefits of AI to achieve SDGs 3, 4, 8, and 16 and address the mitigation of potential risks and negative impacts.
THEMES AND TOPICS
AI definition, current state, evolution, and cost
How AI is changing the means of economic production; the way societies are organized and governed; and how
information and knowledge are created, transmitted, and preserved
AI for Development (AI4D): conceptualization, purpose, and deployment framework
AI4D in the MENA experience and context
Within Morocco’s New Development Plan, how can Moroccan institutions transform this knowledge into powerful
forces for efficient and effective sustainable development?
How can AI be used in the case of SDGs 3, 4, 8, and 16 in Morocco?
What digital foundation is Morocco preparing for? Concrete examples and case studies
How and where should Morocco be engaged in further research and development on AI in the context of Morocco’s development?
The conference will culminate in critical strategic policies and practical interventions that can encourage national and local authorities to commit to action, help AI gain momentum across a diverse stakeholder community, and drive better public awareness. The anticipated outcomes are:
Conference deliverables such as proceedings, recommendations, videos, communication, media, etc.
MENA AI4D website including regional AI4D tools and apps, training opportunities, case studies, showcases, etc.
Collaboration with relevant international development agencies on research related to AI4D in the MENA region.
MENA AI4D Network and a related database to connect interested parties and to encourage collaboration and research.