Finland helps to safeguard child rights in digital world

21 Nov 2020, 01:08

  DF Report

Pixabay photo.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, and Finland are collaborating to create international policy guidance for the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) that affects children, said the foreign ministry in a press release on Friday.

The new guidance will help governments, municipalities, and companies to make sure that the AI solutions used by them will work for the best interest of the child.

In global terms, a third of Internet users are  under-18 children. AI plays a big role in children's lives: it is an integral part of interactive toys, video games, and various mobile phone solutions, for example.

The rapid development of AI involves huge potential of affecting children in areas such as learning, health, and security. 

“What often happens as a result of rapid technological development is that it is challenging to keep up with the change and to ensure that AI serves us in a human-centric manner,” said Ambassador for Innovations Jarmo Sareva.

“People have the right to childhood as a special stage in life. If AI offers solutions that weaken the preconditions for human agency by commercialising childhood, we are not going in the right direction. Children are also more vulnerable than adults. Which is why this sort of guidance is needed,” said the press release.

The international policy guidance that is now being prepared is the first of its kind. It aims to help both governments, municipalities, companies, and others using and developing AI to take the needs and rights of children into account. In the course of the process, children and youth have been consulted extensively.

Finland’s expertise and experience in the area make it a natural partner for UNICEF. Finland is among the first countries to have published their own national artificial intelligence strategy and it has supported UNICEF’s Office of Innovation and its Innovation Fund.

Finnish users are taking part in the development and testing of the AI guidance. Their experiences will be helpful when the draft policy guidance will be finalised.

“Stakeholders were selected from among actors with diverse backgrounds and operating environments from around the world. For example, the Helsinki University Hospital (HUS) is already using virtual applications that are suitable for piloting the guidance,” Sareva said.

The guidance is being tested not only in Finland but also, among others, in Sweden, the UK, Japan, Malta, Chile, the United States, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. Based on the user experiences, the guidance will be finalised and published at an international conference to be held in Helsinki at the end of 2021.