Artificial Intelligence holds intense promise in advancing literacy and lifelong learning

  • 18 Sep 2023
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Brian Otieno

In the quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, the world stands at a crucial crossroads. The 2023 SDGs report highlights a slower pace of progress over the past three years, signaling the urgency of intensified efforts. Yet, the challenges we face are manageable and innovative solutions are emerging to address them. One such solution is the utilisation of artificial intelligence (AI) to bolster literacy, a fundamental pillar of sustainable development.


With just seven years left to bring about transformative change, the involvement of political leaders and public institutions becomes paramount. They must rally all stakeholders behind the SDGs, fostering collaboration, trust, and accountability. A promising avenue for change lies in regulatory innovations that align private-sector governance models with sustainable development objectives.


When strategically applied, these innovations can significantly influence the trajectory of progress.


We recently celebrated International Literacy Day (ILD) on the 8th of September, the running theme being “Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies.” Having marked this important event, it is imperative to delve into the role of AI and institutions in advancing knowledge and addressing contemporary societal challenges.


Zooming out to the broader context of literacy and sustainable development, AI holds the potential to revolutionize global education. The 2030 SDGs stand to benefit immensely from such innovations. For instance, AI-powered personalised learning experiences accelerate progress toward SDG 4, which prioritises quality education.


Moreover, AI-driven literacy initiatives help bridge the digital divide by ensuring equitable access to education, reducing disparities between urban and rural areas, and opening paths out of poverty.  Artificial intelligence, with its recent rapid advancements, has unlocked new possibilities in literacy promotion. It offers personalized learning experiences, making education more accessible and engaging.      


Amid the global push for progress, organisations such as Sama have made remarkable strides. Sama, a certified B-Corp, has a compelling mission: to expand opportunities for underserved individuals through the digital economy. Sama has left a profound impact on over 65,000 individuals, not only by offering digital skills training and employment but also by creating positive ripples within team members’ families and communities. This illustrates the transformative power of initiatives for lifting people out of poverty and fostering sustainable development. 


In 2012, Sama partnered with the Human Needs Project to host its first training at the Kibera Town Centre, a community-owned resource centre offering access to clean water and career advancement services. Since 2008, Sama has operated as a nonprofit with a mission to connect youth and women from marginalised communities to training and dignified digital work.   


Sama provides comprehensive AI training to its employees through an internal training platform known as Sama U. This platform offers staff members unlimited access to various learning resources aimed at both enhancing their skills and providing specialised training for specific projects. The training covers a wide range of topics, both technical and soft skills. Some include data and video annotation, machine learning, soft skills such as communication, decision making, and financial literacy. Importantly, Sama employees have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they acquire through this AI training in their day-to-day work.


Access to education and knowledge through AI holds immense promise in advancing SDG 4, for quality education and lifelong learning by 2030. AI’s global reach and accessibility ensure that underserved communities gain access to education, reducing inequalities (SDG 10) in learning opportunities. Sama is proud to be part of these strides through offering data annotation and validation for machine learning algorithms in a range of industries including automotive, biotechnology, agriculture, virtual reality, manufacturing, and e-commerce.