AI in sport can help accelerate SDGs – concludes Commonwealth Debate

If the world is to stay on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in sports can help achieve those goals faster.

The decision was reached at the 8th Commonwealth Forum on Sport and Sustainable Development held in London recently.

The discussion reminds International Day of Sports for Development and Peace It is celebrated on 6th April every year. This year, a panel of experts discussed the proposal, 'Artificial intelligence is the answer to accelerate the power of sport to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

The group arguing for greater use of AI within an ethical framework won the debate. Both teams received certificates of participation for their insightful contributions. Speaking on behalf of the winning side, Ron Malhotra, co-founder and managing director of SportsTechX, noted that technology offers both risks and rewards.

he said:

„AI is a powerful tool, but we must handle it very carefully as it hinders the achievement of the SDG goals”.

The discussion was facilitated by the Commonwealth Secretariat Game for Development Alliance26 March 2024. Hybrid debate held at Marlborough House, broadcast live to 56 member states.

It attracted a virtual audience of over 200 people, including top athletes, academics, sports advocates and young people from across the Commonwealth. More than 100 people attended the in-person debate, including Commonwealth High Commissioners, senior government officials, representatives of Commonwealth accredited organizations and sports professionals.

The team that argued against the motion won the 8th Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development.

Commenting on the power of sport to bring people together, Commonwealth Under-Secretary-General Dr Arjun Sudtoo said in his opening remarks:

“Sports are more than sports. It is a universal language that can transcend borders, cultures and backgrounds. This year's debate enables insightful conversations about the opportunities and threats of AI in the world of sports and addresses how AI-led solutions can impact social development in healthcare, education and youth engagement.

He continued:

“This theme fully aligns with the Secretary-General's vision of harnessing the power of AI for the benefit of our Commonwealth citizens, especially our youth.

„Last September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the Secretary-General launched the Commonwealth Artificial Intelligence Consortium (CAIC), which includes global technology companies, world-leading research institutions, non-profit organizations and Commonwealth member states. I look forward to championing AI innovation across the Commonwealth.

Sprint from SDG2030 or far away?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development set by the United Nations recognizes sport as a key contributor to sustainable development and peace. However, the spirited debate raised questions about whether AI will keep the world on track or push it further away from achieving the SDGs by 2030.

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Professor Alberto Carrillo, director of research programs at the Barcelona School of Management and Philosophy of Law at Pompeu Fabra University, emphasized his argument against the move, citing how it affected the women's game and inequalities between players and clubs.

In a rejoinder, Preeti Shetty, founder and CEO of Upshot, talked about how AI is rapidly closing gender gaps because it can use data to detect inequality and highlight disparities, which can improve fairness in sports and foster peace.

Reactions from sports enthusiasts

In her comments on how Commonwealth countries can harness the industry potential that can be achieved through sport, Ambassador Amina Mohammed, Kenya's former Cabinet Secretary for Sport, Heritage and Culture and the Commonwealth Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Sport, Industry and Development, said:

“We predict that intra-Commonwealth exports will grow steadily over the next five years and exceed US$1 trillion by 2026. Facilitating intra-Commonwealth trade, particularly by small and medium-sized enterprises, will be critical.

„Platforms like the Intra-Commonwealth SME Association – or ICSA – will enable us to support key Commonwealth events such as the Commonwealth Games and CHOGM.”

In addition to the comments made by the panelists, lively contributions were made by members of the audience in the room and over 400 people on 'X' online. The unprecedented opportunities offered by AI range from the unintended consequences of adopting AI-led solutions without strong legal and ethical frameworks to the threats to sports integrity to operate at the scale of the sports industry.

Ambassador Amina Mohammed, former Cabinet Secretary for Sport, Heritage and Culture and Commonwealth Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Sport, Industry and Development in Kenya

In addition, other audience members suggested that the data should be used to close the gap between large and small countries. Participants also echoed the need to develop smart tools to collect, analyze and demonstrate that sports positively impact social development. Some in the audience called on sports and tech companies to adopt AI in a positive way, focusing on social development in education, health and youth engagement.

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AI is the focus of much of the Commonwealth's work. This month will also see the launch of the AI ​​Academy, which will include free online learning options to help Commonwealth citizens harness the power of AI. One of the first courses, AI for young people, managed by technology giant Intel in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat. The course offers six short and information-packed modules to improve the skills of 2.5 billion citizens across the Commonwealth.

Watch the full discussion

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  • Igeoma oneator Liaison Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat

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