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AI will enhance philanthropy, but it must overcome bias and safety concerns first, AVPN conference hears

AI will enhance philanthropy, but it must overcome bias and safety concerns first, AVPN conference hears
24 Apr 2024 08:51


Philanthropy may be artificial intelligence’s (AI) next frontier of disruption but will need to overcome several concerns, according to an expert panel speaking at the AVPN conference in Abu Dhabi.

Speaking to an audience of philanthropists from across Asia at the St. Regis Hotel on Saadiyat Island on Tuesday, Steve Loh, the Executive Director of Singapore Management University, and Mark Greer of the Charities Aid foundation lauded the potential of AI but warned against the lingering concerns of many donors.

“There is clearly an arms race when it comes to AI, all levels of donors that we surveyed said the opportunity outweighed the risk,” Greer said.

“However, there are still concerns that by utilising AI charities could become disconnected from the cause and the risk of data breach.”

His comments were echoed by Loh who said it was “early days” for the adoption of the technology and added that substantial concerns around biases still existed. This was due to the technology’s reliance on historic data that often reinforced discriminatory and non-inclusive rhetoric.

Nevertheless, Loh had a positive outlook on the potential that AI had to both increase productivity and lower the overheads of charities. He believed that the main reason uptake in the philanthropic field had lagged other sectors was because of restrictions on resources.

“I do feel that AI has a major role to play. AI is a force multiplier that allows us to do good work whilst maximising the donors’ outcomes, but in its early days, you will see that within the philanthropy arena there is not much,” Loh said.

“There are two main reasons for this, a lack of expertise as charities don’t have the money to hire the best computer and data scientists and a lack of data, there is no foundational data for the necessary models to be based off.”

Loh said it was worth “keeping an eye” on the technology, seeing it as paramount to solving the same resourcing issues that were hindering its uptake. However, as pointed out by Greer, whilst its implementation could certainly save crucial man hours, the human touch that formed the base of the charity industry would likely never be automated.

“At the end of the day, a donor is a person, and they donate based on their personal relationships and you can’t replace that,” Greer said.

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