Interview: Helping vulnerable communities with AI Special

Posted Dec 2, 2017 by Tim Sandle
The company Starmind recently launched the interactive platform RISK TALK during the United Nation’s Climate Change conference. The aim is to connect countries, communities and individuals vulnerable to natural disasters with experts.
The Souris River floods Minot  North Dakota.
The Souris River floods Minot, North Dakota.
US Air Force/Staff Sgt.John D. Comer
Starmind's aim is to expand human ingenuity with artificial neural networking. This concept forms the basis of its new interactive interactive platform RISK TALK. The platform uses human-centric artificial intelligence technology.
The aim of RISK TALK is to establish an online community that bridges the supply of innovative risk transfer solutions with vulnerable countries and communities who could benefit from financial protection to manage climate risks. Through this countries, communities and individuals vulnerable to natural disasters that are not connected to experts on the field can become connected. This includes becoming linked to community experts.
To discover more about the platform, Digital Journal spoke with Marc Vontobel, Founder of Starmind.
Digital Journal: What are some of the risks that more vulnerable parts of the world face?
Marc Vontobel: Climate change is a risk that affects mostly poor and vulnerable people in developing countries. This is because they have fewer resources to protect themselves against the resulting damage.
The Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention on Climate Change, at their 21st meeting requested the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism to establish a clearing house for risk transfer that serves as a repository for information on insurance and risk transfer. This will facilitate the efforts of Parties to develop and implement comprehensive risk management strategies. One highlight of this clearing house is RISK TALK.
Screen shot of the RISK TALK platform.
Screen shot of the RISK TALK platform.
DJ: How can tackling these sorts of problems be improved? Can technology help?
Vontobel: RISK TALK is a perfect example of how technology can help solve many of these types of problems more quickly and efficiently. Specifically, this platform is about increasing the capacity and knowledge in developing countries. RISK TALK helps to effectively transfer the knowledge from experts to people who really need it to improve, develop and implement specific risk assessment strategies.
DJ: Please explain what RISK TALK does?
Vontobel:It is the first worldwide online community dedicated to risk assessment strategies for damage caused by the climate change. RISK TALK builds a bridge between the demand of knowledge in developing countries and the available knowledge in other parts of the world. People and communities can ask any question about their most urgent problems or future risks. The AI technology of Starmind ensures that it is directed to the best expert for the question, providing them with a focused and tailor-made answer.
It also opens the possibility for an exchange and discussions about solutions for specific situations between people that would otherwise never have the possibility to meet or speak with each other.
DJ: How did you go about developing and testing the platform?
Vontobel:Over the past few months, a project team with members from the InsuResilience secretariat, as well as the UN climate change, have been working together to make the best use of the Starmind technology and tailor it to the specific needs of this community. It had to be integrated into the InsuResilience and Clearinghouse Websites and is accessible to people all over the world, who should be able to log in with high security.
Therefore not only a designated Registration instance was built, but the team also tested that the usage of the program was as easy and intuitive as possible. The site is accessible for users in countries with very slow internet connections.
In order to test all of these needs, a pilot group of assorted users from all over the world were asked to join the platform weeks prior to the launch and provide feedback.
DJ: How is data from RISK TALK shared?
Vontobel:Starmind learns about individual knowledge, expertise, and interests from user interactions and answers, creating a dynamic knowledge network, empowering users to quickly solve problems and find experts. Using self-learning algorithms based on the principles of brain and artificial neural network research, user’s questions are automatically forwarded to the right expert, identified by the algorithm.
DJ: What can communities and agencies do with this data?
Vontobel:Communities and agencies will be able to increase their knowledge about risk transfer solutions and better understand the risks they are facing, which enables them to handle it better. Most of the communities are not aware of the different coping strategies of climate change.
DJ: How do experts interact with RISK TALK?
Vontobel:Experts from different fields around the world interact with users who are looking for answers to their specific questions around effective risk management strategies.
DJ: Are there any data security concerns?
Vontobel:The Starmind technology was chosen for this project because it was able to fulfil all security standards necessary. There were concerns that an open community like this could attract unwanted participants like spambots or vendors that want to sell something to the people seeking for help.
Very thorough and strict community rules, terms and conditions have been installed that every member has to read and accept before becoming part of the RISK TALK community. A team of Community managers were also monitoring the network and are authorized to clear the site of any content or members that don’t comply with the community rules.
DJ: Have you presented RISK TALK at any forums? How was it received?
Vontobel: Risk Talk was launched at the 23rd United Nations Climate Change Convention on Climate Change on November 14, as well as presented at a UNHCR's governing Executive Committee meeting in October and an outreach campaign throughout the UN climate change conference.
Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, commented on the initiative and said, and I quote: “It is an example of innovation at work. It connects countries and citizens who need risk management solutions with the expert that can provide them. And it uses Artificial Intelligence, so it gets better the more that it is used.”
Overall, we have received very positive feedback from the targeted group users. The challenge will now help to further our outreach to specific target groups and to firmly establish RISK TALK in the community.