Students pitch tech-based ideas for tackling peace and security challenges

April 16th, 2021

Students across the Asia-Pacific region recently met with experts from a range of fields to discuss risks to international peace and security from emerging technologies – and to develop their own technology-based approaches to overcoming these challenges.

The discussions took place over four days of virtual workshops held as part of the “Responsible Innovation for a Secure Environment” (RISE) project, organized by the Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA) and its regional centre for Asia and the Pacific (UNRCPD) in partnership with Singapore University of Technology and Design, National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.

The workshops brought together five teams of students from diverse science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The concerns, interests and ideas of these young innovators were at the programme’s core, enabling participants to explore challenges and questions in key areas they had identified in advance.

The issues they highlighted became the basis of an intensive two-hour discussion with experts from seven private-sector and civil society organizations –AI Global, the Montreal AI Ethics Institute, Microsoft, National University of Singapore, Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and Nonviolence International Southeast Asia –on factors impacting the fields of responsible innovation, technological development, disarmament, and international peace and security.

Student teams developed innovative ideas for tackling disarmament, peace and security challenges through responsible innovation, and pitched them to experts from around the world.

Next, participants from different technical backgrounds and disciplines teamed up over two days to develop slideshows and pitches on their proposals. As the students worked, they benefited from “office hours” offered by participating specialists, as well as from asynchronous access to additional expertise and from team sessions with ODA mentors. 

After demonstrating impressive dedication and creativity throughout the development process, the teams used the final session of the programme to pitch their ideas to an expert panel. The panellists spoke with each team about the implications of its proposal, along with options to strengthen and streamline it.

The Responsible Innovation for a Secure Environment (RISE) project is bringing fresh perspectives to complex issues that involve emerging technologies. By providing tools and frameworks to the next generation of industry leaders, engineers and scientists, the RISE project is creating and supporting a culture of responsible behaviour, accountability and adherence to norms, rules and principles for responsible innovation.

STEM students ended the workshop determined and excited to apply the skills and information they had learned.

The project follows a commitment by the Secretary-General to encourage responsible innovation aimed at ensuring the application of science and technology “for peaceful purposes”, as laid out in his 2018 Agenda for Disarmament, Securing Our Common Future.

For more information on the Office for Disarmament Affairs’ Responsible Innovation activities, please contact Mr. Charles Ovink, Political Affairs Officer, at charles.ovink@un.org.

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