Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things

Summary report

Each month, the Geneva Internet Platform (GIP) organises a virtual tour connecting actors working on the same digital policy issues in Geneva. The 12 Tours to Navigate Digital Geneva series helps the Geneva community navigate International Geneva through different digital issues. In September 2021, the GIP held the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) Tour


  • Geneva gathers multiple actors working on AI, creating a unique ecosystem for interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral digital governance. Diplomats and international officials should take advantage of the many opportunities that Geneva offers when it comes to building capacities in AI and digital governance. 
  • Despite the current efforts by many international organisations, there is a pressing need to connect the dots among both national and international expertise incubators, fostering cooperation on AI applications and more widely on digital technologies. 
  • It is important to regulate developing AI applications by paying close attention to the specificities of each algorithm and its applications in specific sectors. It is crucial to maintain a component of human supervision and control of these technologies.
  • The development agenda should remain central to AI governance and regulations:  only a few countries currently have the capabilities to build AI systems. By focusing on regional and national levels, the AI sector can overcome this challenge and provide tools tailored to the needs of specific communities. 

The tour aimed to understand how AI works and to connect the dots among the many institutions working on AI in Geneva. 

Ms Anja Djajic, Research Intern at the Medical Image Processing Laboratory (MIP:Lab) at École Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), pointed out the need for more cooperation among actors conducting research on AI and pattern recognition in the medical sector. In this regard, International Geneva has a unique role: it gathers a multiplicity of actors working on AI and governance thus creating a unique ecosystem for interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research. Cross-fertilisation is an essential contribution and added-value to International Geneva. 

Amb. Amandeep Gill, Director, Global Health Centre project on International Digital Health & AI Research Collaborative (I-DAIR) at IHEID, similarly stressed the underlying value of collaboration and connecting dots among the numerous national and international incubators of expertise. The I-DAIR aims at facilitating the transition of people to digital applications and AI technologies in the context of the transformation of health systems. I-DAIR focuses on the end-to-end enabling of solution-making: from the situational awareness of who is doing what in the world when it comes to digital health, digital architectures, and data interoperability policies which are vital in transforming health systems. 

Dr Katarina Hoene, Director of Research at Diplo, explained the role of AI as a tool for diplomats. There are many questions in the AI sector on the cooperation leading to the development of machine learning applications; however, another crucial aspect is who reads and analyses. In the past few years, many countries have been developing national AI strategies along two main trends: strategic competition on one hand and international cooperation on the other. The international community should pay closer attention to AI governance and connect the dots on the difference and similarities between AI usage across the world. For example, the questions on how to connect the work of international organisations with that of capitals as well as how to link Geneva to the wider international governance framework still remain open questions.   

Mr Francois Guichard, Secretary to the UNECE Working Party on Automated/Autonomous and Connected Vehicles (GRVA) and the Secretary to the UNECE Informal Working Group on Intelligent Transport Systems (IWG on ITS), talked about digitalisation in the automation driving systems. As vehicles are becoming automated with the help of AI applications there is a growing need for technical regulations of this technology. Such regulation should not be done in isolation: international cooperation is crucial to address the specificities of AI applications across different sectors and contexts.

Mr Sameer Chauhan, Director at the UN International Computing Centre (UNICC), explained that UNICC provides over 70 UN agencies with ICT services and tools. For example, UNICC has built an AI-based solution for an investigating tribunal to collect and analyse evidence of crimes against humanity. Another example is Robotic Process Automation such as bots tracking the inventory and shipment of vaccines around the world. Moreover, the UNICC developed an AI application capturing evidence of electoral fraud thus contributing to fairer elections. The main idea is to extend the usage of these tools and apply them across different countries and communities, which results in developing more intelligence that can be brought together. 

Dr Chaesub Lee, Director, Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (TSB), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), explained how the ITU has been promoting the positive influence of AI on our society by collaborating with many Geneva-based Institutions and by developing the ‘AI4Good’ Initiative. Thanks to this platform, AI innovators and owners learn, build, and connect among each other to ultimately identify practical AI solutions to advance the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs) Agenda. AI algorithms can help improve the analysis, prediction, and visualisation of data to solve problems. 

During the exchange with the audience, panellists reflected on threats brought by AI. Gill and Djajic pointed out potential harms of AI in the medical sector, such as misdiagnosis, often due also to poor quality of data available. Speakers agreed that AI tools are not ready yet to be used alone; rather they should support the work of doctors thus preserving an element of human control. 

Guichard stressed that UNECE is closely collaborating with  actors in International Geneva as well as EU institutions on creating new AI regulations. He explained that  common mistakes regarding AI applications are to focus solely on the quality of data and to have over-expectations on what algorithms can do. 

From a  point of view, Lee explained that only a few countries have the capabilities to build and maintain AI infrastructures. By focusing on regional and national levels, the ITU tries to overcome this challenge and provide AI tools tailored to a specific community while addressing the digital divide. 

In the concluding remarks, Hoene stated that the international community needs to prioritise the participation of developing countries in the discussion. Sameer Chauhan pointed out that diplomats need to take advantage of many opportunities in Geneva to educate themselves on AI. This sector has a lot of challenges, and we need to be aware of its limits. 

Prepared by Oliwia Kacprzak