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Global research network to boost economic opportunities for women agricultural workers in India

CIFAR announces a successful Solution Network to develop responsible AI governance solutions for economic inclusion.

CIFAR’s new Solution Network, a team of interdisciplinary researchers from India, Canada, Finland, Switzerland, and the U.K, will develop an inclusive, open-source data infrastructure platform that will enable women agricultural workers in India to gain access to a market that has become increasingly digitized.

The team will collect data relevant to agricultural workers, track supply and demand for their produce, predict production costs, develop analytics, compare market models, and develop predictions about pricing. The data platform will remove technology barriers and enable women owners and workers to fairly access markets without the need for intermediaries.

Secondly, the Network will create an open-access toolkit, building on the processes and practices developed, that can be adapted and reused by other communities and countries. The toolkit will guide policymakers to develop free market approaches to support grassroots organizations.

“The rapid pace of AI technologies disproportionately benefits some individuals and countries, and has the potential to pose harm to groups that are already at a disadvantage due to their race, gender, education and/or economic status. The CIFAR Solution Networks aims to address these challenges to support equity, diversity and inclusion in AI around the world,” says Dr. Elissa Strome, Executive Director, CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy.


Technology barriers

The technology gap serves to perpetuate inequalities in many countries, such as India, where only 30 per cent of women use the Internet and 38 per cent own a mobile phone, compared to 71 per cent of men (reported in IAMAI & Kantar IMRB Report “Internet in India”).

Women workers in India face significant challenges in getting a fair price for their produce, and in accessing the agricultural market, forcing dependence on middle agents. Lack of literacy and access to technology prevents the flow of information vital to their success and growth as workers. Sustainable agricultural practices, and the ability to communicate directly with vendors and farmers are some of the types of information women workers are excluded from due to technological barriers.

“The gender gap in technology intensifies existing inequalities in education, employment, and access to information. It’s not just about owning a mobile, it’s about inequality in the way technology is made, the way algorithms are developed, and who benefits from them. Our team wants to take a step towards changing this by building upon grassroots models that work and are shown to be empowering,” says Revathi Kollegala, Co-Director of the CIFAR Solution Network. Kollegala serves as the Technology Advisor for SEWA Cooperative Federation, a grassroots organization that supports economic opportunities for women workers in India. She is also a Governing Council Member of P2P and a Design Group Member of MyData Global.

“CIFAR’s flexible and sustained funding will enable crucial opportunities for our internationally distributed team members and participating communities to experiment together, test out new working methods and governance practices, and make new connections across networks to help build and sustain the project’s outcomes,” says Colin Clark, Co-Director, CIFAR Solution Network, an associate director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre, and an adjunct professor at OCAD University.

The CIFAR Solution Networks program is designed to ensure beneficial and responsible AI deployment. The Solution Networks program is part of the AI & Society Program, an objective of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy.

Meet the CIFAR Solution Network Members:

Colin Clark

Co-Director, CIFAR Solution Network
Associate Director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre, and an Adjunct Professor at OCAD University (Canada)

Revathi Kollegala

Co-Director, CIFAR Solution Network (India)
Technology Advisor, SEWA Cooperative Federation
Governing Council Member, P2P Foundation
Design Group Member, MyData Global

Luke Church

Solution Network Member
Researcher, University of Cambridge and Lund University
Founder, Lark Systems
Senior advisor, Africa’s Voices Foundation (United Kingdom)

Eva de Lera

Solution Network Member
Executive Director, Raising the Floor (Switzerland)

Salonie Muralidhara Hiriyur

Solution Network Member
Senior Coordinator, SEWA Cooperative Federation (India)

Patrick Shulist

Solution Network Member
Assistant Professor, Sustainability in Business, Aalto University School of Business (Finland)

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CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.

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