AI’s Next Frontier: Making Finance More SDGs Aligned

7 septembre 2022

By Gökhan Dikmener, Technical Specialist at UNDP IICPSD and Najoua Soudi, Head of Solutions Mapping UNDP in Morocco, Accelerator Lab

Within the last decade, frontier technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI) have provided numerous innovative solutions to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. These technologies have disrupted development stakeholders’ approach by advancing the sustainable development digitalization and rethinking the way we at UNDP tackle sustainable developments challenges.

To keep with those trends, UNDP has established the global network of 91 Accelerator Labs, which are designed to close the gap between the current practices of international development in an accelerated pace of change. They model a new capability to make breakthroughs on the future of development: inequality, decarbonization, the 4th industrial revolution and new forms of governance.

Now UNDP is exploring the use of the frontier technologies in making Finance Sector more accessible, transparent, and responsive to the needs of the most vulnerable groups. The rise of Digital Ledger technologies such as Blockchain, Big Data and AI have already greatly impacted the sector by bringing more transparency and traceability to financial services. Among them, recently AI has been a prominent one and widely used within the development sector providing solutions for unstructured data such as the text analysis, automation of operational processes and many others.

However, as frontier technologies such as AI create limitless opportunities for their application in financial sector and others, in a surprising turn, they are also now a source of a new breed of sustainable development challenges with human rights and ethical stunts such as algorithmic biases, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and adverse effects on workers, privacy and data protection issues. Over the next decade, top attention needs to be given to responsible use of AI, its governance and cooperation, especially considering the millions of the people on low incomes, who are more vulnerable to AI ethical issues and how these might keep them from reaping the multiple benefits of the digital future.

Bringing AI solutions for Inclusive Digital Finance, UNDP Morocco Accelerator Lab

Despite the rise of more inclusive financial services, millions of people remain financially underserved and unbanked, especially vulnerable groups such as women, low-income families and those living in rural areas. In this context, with the growing number of social media users in the country, UNDP Morocco Accelerator Lab is building an innovative SDG Digital Finance Portfolio. The key learning so far is that digital financial services users’ safety can be at odds, as underregulated and unchecked consumer protection can further exacerbate the digital divide in the financial sector. For instance, strengthened consumer protection can support vulnerable consumers with addressing information imbalances and empower them to make sound decisions in a short period of time. Another concern is that, the most of digital frauds worldwide are flying under the financial regulators’ radars. There has been a growing need to address the issue of digital finance frauds through improved regulations and financial literacy. Moreover, frontier technologies can offer some innovative solutions to reduce the number of digital frauds.

Together with UNDP IICPSD’s SDG AI Lab, UNDP Morocco Acc Lab is experimenting with developing digital solutions such as Supervisory Technology (Suptech) to  listen and elevate the voice of underserved vulnerable financial services consumers. The proposed SupTech will collect real-time data from various social media platforms to track consumer experiences and sentiments to help central bank and financial regulators to advance financial inclusion. The social media analysis will support the regulator with more effective consumer protection mechanisms, appropriate supervision, and enforcement capacity. Resulting in overall intelligence on financial stability, financial inclusion, and market misconduct.

As Accelerator Lab and SDG AI Lab are going through continuous iterations of this AI-powered solution for a fair digital finance, here’s what we’re learning:

  1. Understanding of the target group’s needs and sentiments is a key

Bringing AI technology to life is more about acquiring an in-depth understanding of the people we are serving, their unmet needs and sentiments. For the SupTech, we had to consider two groups: policy makers and regulators, who will use the findings in their work, and the communities the solution is designed to serve.

  1. Rich datasets combining numerous data sources could get with better analytics

There is no ready to use dataset or data source for the SupTech, thus we are considering combining the data from social media both in Arabic and French as well as creating our own data through chatbots. The established dataset would allow us to get the full picture of the underserved groups and their needs and inform the regulators accordingly.

  1. Accessible and simple solutions can bring more impact

While for the analysis we use the advanced technologies such as Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing, the users should be able to receive the information in a simple and straightforward way. For this we use basic chatbots to interact with the communities, so there is no discomfort on their side. As for the regulators, all the findings would be visualized through an interactive webapp.


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UNDP is building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 92 Labs in 115 countries.


The SDG AI Lab is a joint initiative of UNDP Bureau of Policy and Programme Support and hosted under UNDP IICPSD. The Lab has a mission to harness the potential of frontier technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for sustainable development. SDG AI Lab provides research, development, and advisory services in the areas of frontier technologies and sustainable development. As well, the Lab supports UNDP’s internal capacity strengthening efforts for the increasing demand for digital solutions. To bridge the talent gap in the use of frontier technologies in development contexts, the Lab mobilizes volunteer data scientists, connecting UNDP teams and highly skilled data scientists to address development challenges with digital solutions.