The news is filled with stories about the benefits of artificial intelligence and its potential to enhance efficiency for organizations, automate time-consuming processes, and make information more accessible. In some developing countries, however, adoption of new artificial intelligence-based tools has been slower—particularly by women. In Ecuador, our USAID-funded New Partnerships in Open Government program has found that Ecuadorean women face challenges when it comes to using technology and open data as proposed in the country’s Open State Initiative. To address this widening gender and technological gap, our local NGO partner, Fundación Datalat, developed a program to increase women’s ability to adopt emerging technologies responsibly and securely: “Innovating Together: Artificial Intelligence, Women, and Open Government.”
Datalat’s program aimed to improve participants’ understanding of artificial intelligence, including its benefits, risks, and potential applications for improving service delivery and decision making. The training demonstrated the importance of using an ethical framework to ensure transparent and responsible adoption of these tools within the public, private, and social sectors.
Targeting engagement with women leaders of social enterprises in the public and private sector, Datalat announced the program during Open Government Week in June 2023. Professional groups Women in Profession and Women in Tech disseminated information about the workshop through their networks and encouraged their members to apply. Of the 278 applications received, a committee selected 40 participants from cities throughout Ecuador to take part in the program.
Over the course of 20 virtual and in-person sessions, participants learned about a wide variety of digital identity tools, including Perplexity, a chatbot; code-free artificial intelligence model generators such as Teachable Machine; and image and logo generators such as SlidesAi.io, Redenforest, and NightCafe. The women strengthened their ability to use artificial intelligence as a way to improve services and enhance open government. Ensuring these tools were used responsibly, the program focused on the protection of personal data and used high profile legal cases to help build understanding of the limits when collecting personal data.
Throughout the sessions, Datalat encouraged the participants to be creative and brainstorm together the ways in which the new tools could transform how they work and enable them to better serve Ecuadoran citizens. Participants discussed potential joint projects, and talked through lingering apprehensions about artificial intelligence and how it might affect their work and industries in the future. These projects will undoubtedly go a long way towards helping women leaders throughout Ecuador better serve citizens and use artificial intelligence tools to provide critical services efficiently, effectively, and transparently in support of open government.