Sustainable development can benefit from AI

27 March 2020

27th March 2020

The final article in this series on artificial intelligence (AI) and policy considers research that highlights the great potential in helping the world reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. But it comes with a word of caution.

Muriel Cozier

Artificial intelligence (AI) is influencing larger trends in global sustainability. This in turn has implications for business leadership and the education of future business leaders. A paper published in The International Journal of Management Education asserts that the growth of AI must be carefully managed as it will give intellectual and financial advantages to some cities and countries, while others are left behind. The paper considers three areas where AI and Sustainable Development Goals have been incorporated. One of these is smart water management.

While there is more than enough water to meet global demand, treatment and distribution facilities and the required networks are not adequate. Many communities in developing nations do not have access to clean water, which impacts health and has economic and environmental implications. Several of the Sustainable Development Goals are focused on addressing these issues.

The critical role water plays in life means that there is a movement to leverage emerging technologies offering sustainable solutions for treatment, transportation and the recycling and reuse of water. The paper asserts that progress on new AI technology could make monitoring at water treatment plants cheaper and easier, helping to safeguard public health.

‘Because of AI’s ability to constantly adapt and process large amounts of data in real time, it is an ideal tool for managing water resource, and the business of water, allowing utility managers to maximise current revenue and effectively plan for the years ahead,’ the paper’s authors say.

But sounding a note of caution, they write, ‘The rapid expansion of AI is already outpacing the development and deployment of legal and regulatory frameworks and the mechanisms that are designed to govern it.’

The authors add; ‘The academic community will have an important role to play in preparing future generations of business leaders and national and international policy makers. AI and its positive and negative impacts must be taught now so that students will be cognizant of the world as it currently is and world as it will rapidly unfold.’


Artificial Intelligence and sustainable development 
Margaret A Goralski, Tay Keong Tan
International Journal of Management Education 18 (2020) 100300

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