4 ways IFAD is using AI to transform rural development


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4 ways IFAD is using AI to transform rural development

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© IFAD/Andrew Esiebo

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies become exponentially more capable, they can contribute to solving some of the most pressing challenges, from climate change to food insecurity.

But with this opportunity comes risk. If misused, AI could intensify bias or increase misinformation. That is why it is crucial to use AI responsibly and ethically, ensuring human rights, dignity and well-being. And that is why IFAD proactively works with partners to ensure AI is a force for good.

We contribute to the development of UN-wide normative and operational AI frameworks and follow the Principles for the Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence in the United Nations System. Moreover, we developed a unique and inclusive approach to using AI in our daily work, supported by our own internal guidelines.

How IFAD is using AI

IFAD is already using AI to help our organization deliver better development results by harnessing data in new ways. We were one of the first multilateral organizations to leverage AI technologies, such as Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service.

Here are some of the ways IFAD is using AI to achieve greater impact for rural people:

  1. Augmented analytics: AI-generated insights help us quickly and accurately make sense of developments and trends at various levels. This triggers new thinking around development interventions. Moreover, with advanced analytics, IFAD improves targeting to reach those who can benefit most from our support.
  2. Inclusive development: Community-driven development is at the heart of what IFAD does. AI helps ensure that communities play an active role in developing solutions made for them. For example, a digital listening tool in Indonesia collects inputs from users through text, photos and voice. It uses these to identify challenges and opportunities and provide tailored advice.
  3. Contextual understanding: By combining nuanced definitions and curated taxonomies with AI, we can tailor methodologies to better understand what works in specific contexts, including fragile situations.
  4. Actionable information: Our Omnidata platform provides easy access to AI-powered data, dashboards, tools and systems to support small-scale farmers. The platform pinpoints key information to answer complex questions across multiple dimensions – from social and environmental, to economic and technical.


What’s next

AI for development is still in its early days. It has enormous potential to create vibrant, inclusive and sustainable rural economies through ground-breaking advances.

For example, AI can minimize crop failures by diagnosing plant disease and pest infestation in real-time, offering tailored and localized advice to farmers  via mobile devices for effective treatment. Or as climate change worsens, AI can track weather patterns and simulate how rural communities may be affected to avoid the worst outcomes and build resilience.

IFAD has the tools and capabilities in place to leverage the transformational power of AI to support rural economies in becoming more inclusive, productive, resilient and sustainable.

Just as AI exponentially matures, so too can our impact if we learn how to effectively harness its power and steer it as a force for better development outcomes and impact on the ground.

The most exciting aspect is that AI opens possibilities towards solving previously intractable problems, allowing us to think big and ask “what if…” with renewed optimism about the immense potential ahead of us.