Artificial Intelligence

This mobile app is paying refugees to train artificial intelligence

Smartphones are displayed for sale at the 'Computer Village' in Ikeja district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, Nigeria May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye - RC18CAE7A480

Refugees could earn money by 'training' algorithms on smartphones. Image: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Emma Batha
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Artificial Intelligence?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Artificial Intelligence is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Artificial Intelligence

Companies could help refugees rebuild their lives by paying them to boost artificial intelligence (AI) using their phones and giving them digital skills, a tech non-profit said on Thursday.

REFUNITE has developed an app, LevelApp, which is being piloted in Uganda to allow people who have been uprooted by conflict to earn instant money by "training" algorithms for AI.

Wars, persecution and other violence have uprooted a record 68.5 million people, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Image: UNHCR

People forced to flee their homes lose their livelihoods and struggle to create a source of income, REFUNITE co-chief executive Chris Mikkelsen told the Trust Conference in London.

"This provides refugees with a foothold in the global gig economy," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation's two-day event, which focuses on a host of human rights issues.

A refugee in Uganda currently earning $1.25 a day doing basic tasks or menial jobs could make up to $20 a day doing simple AI labelling work on their phones, Mikkelsen said.

REFUNITE says the app could be particularly beneficial for women as the work can be done from the home and is more lucrative than traditional sources of income such as crafts.

The cash could enable refugees to buy livestock, educate children and access healthcare, leaving them less dependant on aid and helping them recover faster, according to Mikkelsen.

Have you read?

The work would also allow them to build digital skills they could take with them when they returned home, REFUNITE says.

"This would give them the ability to rebuild a life ... and the dignity of no longer having to rely solely on charity," Mikkelsen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

AI is the development of computer systems which can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.

It is being used in a vast array of products from driverless cars to agricultural robots that can identify and eradicate weeds and computers able to identify cancers.

In order to "teach" machines to mimic human intelligence, people must repeatedly label images and other data until the algorithm can detect patterns without human intervention.

REFUNITE, based in California, is trialing the app in Uganda where it has launched a pilot project involving 5,000 refugees – mainly form South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. It hopes to scale up to 25,000 refugees within two years.

Mikkelsen said the initiative was a win-win as it would also benefit companies by slashing costs.

Another tech company, DeepBrain Chain, has committed to paying 200 refugees for a test period of six months, he said.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Artificial IntelligenceAfricaSocial Innovation
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Why protecting an open AI ecosystem should be a cornerstone of technology regulation

Alessandro Curioni

February 23, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum