Making AI Work Podcast #012 – Alex Hutchison

“… Data will have taken quite a hard hit in some respects, because of the situation with COVID. We rely so heavily on household surveys, and we rely on people being able to move around countries and populations, and to ask questions face-to-face. And so we’ve now got this period of time where we’re going to be missing key information”.

As Director of the Data for Children collaborative with UNICEF, Alex Hutchison turns data into merit by improving children’s lives all across the globe. We had the honour of chatting with her and took away some very interesting insights.

Skills & Teamwork As Pillars of AI Success

“…because we’re using collaborative teams and we’re using academia, public sector and private sector, we’re able to lean on skill sets in particular areas.”

“We are doing some really advanced informatics work with school of informatics at the University of Edinburgh to build algorithms looking at satellite imagery. We’re working with a private sector company using a bit of NLP to develop chatbots. And we’re looking at rumours and misinformation around COVID and COVID vaccines.”

“It’s more about finding the right set of skills and matching those back to the challenge that we’re trying to address… We use a variety of teams and we build these teams. That gives us that flexibility”.

 Using AI To Improve Children’s Lives 

“We are lacking in decent census data and decent administrative data in countries that UNICEF are trying to serve. Their programming is all determined on knowing where children are”.

“If you take the example of vaccinations. They need to know where to send out their vaccination teams, they need to be able to plan for that appropriately. But without a decent backdrop of country level data, they can’t”.

“So what we’ve been looking at is ‘can we use satellite imagery to understand building footprint identification, road networks, and nighttime lights, to be able to better predict, or better estimate, where populations are?’… to be able to build a map for UNICEF’s country office to help them with their planning and programming”.

Driving Social Initiatives Through Data-Sharing

“There is some nice work going on at the University of Edinburgh to try and pull together the banking and finance industry to share datasets, to look at ‘how can you drive social initiatives using banking data?’.”

“It is really heartwarming that they’re looking at vulnerable customers or gambling, and these use cases and scenarios.”

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