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FEATURE STORYApril 23, 2024

Human Capital Ministerial Conclave: Realizing the Potential of Digital Technology and AI

HCP Conclave

Ministers from over 30 countries participated in the Human Capital Conclave, focused on how technology and AI can help equip people to thrive.    

Photo credit: Ian Foulk/World Bank

At the Spring Meetings Human Capital Ministerial Conclave, leading voices in digital technology and artificial intelligence and ministers of finance from the World Bank’s Human Capital Network highlighted that technology can boost how countries build, use, and protect their human capital.

The 95-country Network is a unique global effort to accelerate investments in people.

The event kicked off with a discussion between Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s Senior Managing Director for Development Policy and Partnerships; Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of online learning platform Coursera; and Nandan Nilekani, Infosys co-founder and Chairman of the Board.

The speakers focused on foundational infrastructure and skills – starting from basic literacy and math combined with access to electricity and technologies – to prepare people to make the most in training and finding jobs in the digital economy.

HCP Conclave
Axel van Trotsenburg, the World Bank’s Senior Managing Director for Development Policy & Partnerships; Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of online learning platform Coursera; and Nandan Nilekani, Infosys Co-Founder & Chairman discussed the importance of foundational infrastructure and skills – and how they can improve service delivery and opportunities. Photo credit: Ian Foulk/World Bank

Van Trotsenburg pointed out that digital tools provide a “fighting chance” for those who might otherwise be left behind. He highlighted the global nature of talent, emphasizing that skills, not geography, should dictate opportunity.

Nilekani noted that that literacy creates the foundation for using technology and developing a continuous learning mindset. He stressed that while technology cannot replace human abilities to empathize, mentor, counsel, and collaborate – it can support service delivery for human capital such as India’s digital ID Aadhaar extending financial inclusion and social protection. The potential of this application was also endorsed by Morocco, which uses similar technology to provide social benefits – exemplifying the power of international collaboration.

Maggioncalda highlighted that with a strong human capital foundation, people can learn from anywhere while using AI to boost productivity and opportunities. “Talent is global and not constrained by borders. More people will have meaningful economic opportunity without needing to move if they have the desire, skills, and work ethic.” He noted that AI has helped reduce the cost of translating Coursera courses from $10,000 to $20 – which has allowed them to make their content more accessible. 

HCP Conclave
Mamta Murthi, the World Bank’s Vice President for Human Development highlighted how technology can help create a healthier and more educated future. She stressed that human connection remains key in early learning. Photo credit: Ian Foulk/World Bank

There are many opportunities for technology to improve health and education. While human interaction is critical in early education, I see promise in AI-powered solutions such as Togo's targeted support program, and online learning platforms that are helping women in Afghanistan continue their education. Inclusive electricity access and digital strategies are also crucial for expanding the reach of these solutions, which can improve skills – and bridge gaps in health care and education.
Fatimetou Mint Mohamed
Mamta Murthi, Co-chair of the Human Capital Network
Vice President for Human Development, World Bank

Ministers from Morocco, Cape Verde, Kenya, and Armenia stressed the importance of electricity and internet access as a necessity, as well as making technology education available to people of all ages. Their overall message was clear: technology offers a toolkit for helping level the playing field. Success requires a collaborative effort, where governments, development partners, and the private sector work closely together to ensure that the benefits of technological progress reach all. 

HCP Conclave
CEO of Amini Kate Kallot and Co-Founder of Curai Health Neal Khosla highlighted how AI is helping improve agricultural productivity and health care access and quality. Photo credit: Ian Foulk/World Bank
Two entrepreneurs from the Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in AI list joined the second half of the event to share their perspectives on realizing the immense opportunities AI can bring for people’s lives while balancing potential challenges.

Kate Kallot, founder and CEO of Nairobi-based startup Amini, shared how AI and satellite data can help African farmers facing climate change enabled by the contributions of talented young people, while co-founder of Curai Health, Neal Khosla, spoke about AI to revolutionize health care in all countries – and help reach the 4.5 billion people that are not receiving the health care that they need.

Reflecting on how digital technology can play a role in World Bank projects as diverse as digital social registries to AI tools that help community health workers, van Trotsenburg said, "We must work together with ‘total ambition’ to help countries see better human capital outcomes now – and in decades to come."


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