Digital education for a sustainable world.

Welcome to the IRCAI official launch as a virtual conference. We invite you to join us from March 29 – 30, 2021. Our program features a general presentation of our goals and vision on Day 1, followed by a detailed exploration of our programs and results on Day 2.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plans for the public launch of the Centre were rescheduled to March 2021. The International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI) is a newly designated Category 2 Center under the auspices of UNESCO that provides insight and impact through open and transparent dialogue on research in Artificial Intelligence (AI), with a specific focus on addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Check our Personal Data Protection Notice and if you have any questions please call or text Davor Orlic on 00447894044980 or email


DAY 1 - Monday, March 29, 2021
14:30 – 14:35 (CEST) – Launch opening
Master of Ceremonies Igor Bergant   Link to video

14:35 – 15:00 (CEST) – Opening statements
Prof. Boštjan Zalar, Director of Jožef Stefan Institute   Link to video
H.E. Mr. Borut Pahor, President of the Republic of Slovenia    Link to the speech transcript    Link to video
H.E. Mrs. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO    Link to the speech transcript    Link to video
Screenshot of all speakers and moderators and team IRCAI

Prof. Simona Kustec, Minister of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Slovenia    Link to the speech transcript     Link to video
Boštjan Koritnik, Minister of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia   Link to the speech transcript    Link to video
Anthony Whelan, Digital Policy Adviser, Cabinet (private office) of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission   Link to video

15:00 – 15:05 (CEST) – IRCAI promotional video

15:05 – 15:25 (CEST) – History, Status, Ecosystem, Vision, Network and work with UNESCO (presentation)
Prof. John Shawe-Taylor, Executive Director, IRCAI
IRCAI is the result of a long tradition of Slovenian research in AI and a number of large-scale partnerships across several decades over a number of European networks of excellence and almost a decade of activities with UNESCO. It exists within an ecosystem of AI players, across different research departments at the Jozef Stefan Institute, non-profits such as the Knowledge 4 All Foundation and a number of start-ups between London and Ljubljana. Its mission is to cover the vertical from research, to implementation and policy input showcasing unbiased, rigorous, and comprehensive dialogue for policymakers, researchers, journalists, executives, and the general public to develop a deeper understanding of the complex field of AI.   Link to the speech transcript    Link to video

15:25 – 15:35 (CEST)– Launch of Report on Artificial Intelligence in Sub-Saharan Africa capacity building agenda
Neil Butcher, IRCAI affiliate
This is a new IDRC supported report which involved IRCAI personnel in the framework of the AI4D programme designed via a survey of universities; HEIs, and communities of practice. In order to guide future investments in capacity building that will build responsible AI development and deployment, it is important to know answers to questions such as: what does the AI landscape in SSA look like? What measures are stakeholders in the region taking to ensure that they are AI-ready? Where does capacity already exist or not?   Link to the report    Link to video

5 min  break

15:40 – 16:35 (CEST) – Building a Global AI Community for Sustainable Development (panel session)
Round table with multi-stakeholders moderated by Melissa Heikkilä, AI Correspondent, Politico.
Jade Abbott, Retro Rabbit and Masakhane
Billy Okal, 6 River Systems (Shopify) and Data Science Africa
Olalekan Akinsande, Chief Technical Lead at Data Science Nigeria
Benjamin Rosman, University of the Witwatersrand and Deep Learning Indaba
There are a number of AI communities across Africa form Deep Learning Indaba with their IndabaX chapters across 35 countries, to Data Science Africa and Data Science Nigeria which are both pushing forward capacity building aiming to train millions of AI practitioners across Africa, and Masakhane which is a research community specialized in African languages. This is a thriving landscape that supports research addressing local challenges in Africa.   Link to video

5 min  break

16:40 – 16:45 (CEST) – Announcing the IRCAI Global Top 100 list for AI Projects on SDGs and how to engage with IRCAI (presentation)
Davor Orlic, COO IRCAI
IRCAI wants to give a voice to researchers across the world to present their best work, that’s why we want to start a scoping study with the TOP 100 projects to unearth the amazing work being done by AI colleagues everywhere. We have built mechanisms for researchers, policymakers, industry and venture capital to join our new Global Network of AI Excellence Centres. For this purpose, we have also set up a governance structure with Terms of Reference, Governing Board, Steering Committee and Programme Committees.   Link to the IRCAI presentation    Link to video

DAY 2 - Tuesday, March 30, 2021
14:00 – 14:05 (CEST) – Re-launch opening
Prof. John Shawe-Taylor, Executive Director, IRCAI

14:05 – 14:40 (CEST) – IRCAI Activities in AI and Sustainable Development (presentations)
IRCAI has set up International Scientific Program Committees consisting of groups of experts around Grand Challenges solvable by AI to validate and create projects with partners from all the world’s regions.

AI and Climate: Water Quality Measurement System 
Aidan O’Sullivan, PC Chair in AI and Climate    Link to video

AI and Education: AI algorithms for Education
Colin de La Higuera, PC Chair in AI and Education    Link to video

AI and Assistive Technologies: White paper in AI and Assistive Technologies
Catherine Holloway , PC Chair in AI and Assistive Technologies    Link to video

AI and Healthcare: Use of AI for COVID-19 vaccination
Delmiro Fernandez-Reyes, PC Chair in AI and Healthcare    Link to video

5 min  break

14:45 – 14:50 (CEST) – Findings of AI Need Assessment in Africa (presentation)
Prateek Sibal and Bhanu Neupane, Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO
UNESCO has published with the support of IDRC and Knowledge 4 All Foundation the results of a survey intended to establish the priorities and capacity building needs of African countries concerning AI. The countries responding the survey requested support for standard-setting, policy advise, capacity building, network development and for addressing gender equality related concerns in the development and use of AI.    Link to the survey report    Link to video

14:50 – 15:30 (CEST) – UNESCO Member States and IRCAI – From Needs Assessment to Action (panel session)
Discussion to be led by Lenart Kucic, independent journalist
Evelyne Rodrigues, Innovation 4 policy Foundation
Renée Cummings, Criminologist, AI Ethicist, Data Activist in Residence, School of Data Science, University of Virginia
Adriana Bora, The Future Society
The panel will discuss how policy needs to come into action and what are the tangible results of such a scenario. We understand via the UNESCO assessment report that there is a need to levelized the potential benefits and risks of the AI technologies and research which is not equally distributed across regions of the world. As a category 2 center under the auspices of UNESCO, IRCAI wishes to benefit from the survey findings and partner with UNESCO to expand similar effort in other geographical constituencies of UNESCO, namely across Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and use the experience of the panel in thinking about how to push commitment into action.    Link to video

5 min  break

15:35 – 15:55 (CEST) – IRCAI Ethics – from Commitments to Action (presentations)
Analysis of 6 Regional Consultations on the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of AI
Neil Butcher
, IRCAI affiliate
UNESCO is working to harness opportunities in its fields of competence and has been leading reflections around pressing concerns related to AI’s rapid development, from a Human Rights and Ethics perspective. IRCAI has produced an analysis of the feedback of all UNESCO Member States on the draft Recommendation, including leading the East European.     Link to video

IRCAI Ethics and Regulation
Katherine Evans
, IRCAI affiliate
Gregor Strojin, President CAHAI, Ad Hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence, Council of Europe
During 2020, IRCAI Programme Committees authored an Opinion Series. One report explores the question of the ethical uniqueness of emerging artificial intelligence which has not only received global interest, but also requires an urgent and global response. Through our experts we give an insight into the work in ethics, trustworthiness, bias, in a number of international organizations such as UNESCO, OECD, Council of Europe.    Link to the report
Link to presentation    Link to video

5 min  break

16:00 – 16:25 (CEST) – IRCAI Datasets – from Citizen Science to African languages (presentations)
Cracking the Language Barrier for a Multilingual Africa- Low Resource African Languages
Kathleen Siminyu
, Regional Coordinator, AI4D Africa
IRCAI together with Knowledge 4 All Foundation is working in the framework of UNESCOs MLA 2 Building knowledge societies through ICTs by enabling universal access to, and preservation of, information and knowledge, where UNESCO, IDRC, and GIZ support a Fellowship for Low Resource African Languages in order to develop datasets and strengthen capacities and innovation potential by creating data challenges.    Link to the project    Link to video

Ethics in action
Blaz Zupan
, IRCAI industrial partner
IRCAI is working with the University of Ljubljana on the citizen science aspect of AI training with Orange, a machine learning and data mining suite for data analysis through Python scripting and visual programming. Here we report on introducing and designing new features in the system enabling ethical components that are based and suggested in the UNESCO Recommendation in Ethics of AI. Orange is being used by experienced users and programmers, as well as for students of data mining.    Link to the website    Link to video

5 min  break

16:30 – 16:55 (CEST) – IRCAI Funding and Innovation Programme (presentations)
Social Impact Bonds
Daniel Miodovnik
, Social Finance
IRCAI AI Social Impact Bonds: the Center will introduce the idea of the social impact bond as a mechanism for quick and effective governmental investment in AI companies coming from research.    Link to video

AI policies around the world
Mark Minevich
, IRCAI Chief Digital Strategist
Whilst IRCAI is involved in research backing UNESCO and other IGO publications, and its own data driven analytics platform, it also has via its Business Council an insight into industrial perspectives on which governments are leading in their rollout and infrastructure development in AI to enable different stakeholders in createing an effective AI sector.    Link to video

AI Global Observatory
Marko Grobelnik
IRCAI plan is to build “SDG Observatory”, an online system to observe UN SDG indicators along diverse dimensions: through media, academia, economy and other data sources to complement the official SDG classification. The goal is to provide an accurate up-to-date picuture of what is the status of SDGs, how they interrelate and where they evolve.    Link to video

16:55 – 17:00 (CEST) – Launch of AI in Africa: State of Play
Patti Kachidza, IRCAI affiliate
The paper is one of the reports in the AI4D Africa programme. Its focus has been to review the state of play of AI technologies in Africa in the areas of innovation, capacity building, policy, and infrastructure. After describing the state of play, it invites all African stakeholders and calls them to action to focus on the key activities required for Africa to position itself to better harness responsible AI technologies to tackle some of its critical challenges, and even become a leadingvoice on steering the African AI agenda.    Link to the report    Link to video

17:00 – 17:05 (CEST) – Concluding remarks
Prof. John Shawe-Taylor, Executive Director, IRCAI    Link to video

Team IRCAI has been involved with a number of partners and colleagues in a authoring reports showcasing AI topics from around the world.

Document download

Artificial Intelligence in Sub-Saharan Africa

Document download

Artificial Intelligence Needs Assessment Survey in Africa

AI Recommendation Regional Consultation UNESCO

Opinion Series Report: AI Recommendation Regional Consultation UNESCO

Document download

Responsible Artificial Intelligence in Sub-Saharan Africa

Document download

Powering Inclusion: Artificial Intelligence and Assistive Technology


With special focus on research excellence, the Centre is undertaking vital work looking at different approaches of Artificial Intelligence towards UN SDGs. This work resulted in accompanying AI platforms, reports and white papers that were managed by the Chairs of the following Programme Committees:

AI & Healthcare

AI & Education

AI & Assistive Technologies

AI & Circular Economy

AI & Climate Change


List of current projects across Science, Capacity Building, Validation and Funding programmes for which you can find more information by clicking on the appropriate boxes:

Project 1:

Network of AI
Excellence Centers

Project 2:

International Journal of AI for Sustainable Development

Project 3:

International AI Scientific Program Committees

Project 4:

International Series
Events on AI

Project 5:

AI World Day

Project 6:

AI Awards

Project 7:

AI Olympiad

Project 8:

AI Clearinghouse

Project 9:

AI Solutions Funded
with Social Impact Bonds

Project 10:

International AI Policy
Transfer Help Desk


IRCAI is launching a call for the World’s Most Promising Artificial Intelligence Projects Advancing the United Nations SDGs and will create a Global Top 100 list and Top 10 report.


IRCAI has developed a portfolio of technologies within its Programme Committies and its partners network to showcase the use of AI and sustainability:


AI & Assistive Tech

AI & Education

Hands on AI


IRCAI engages with a broad range of stakeholders including Government and regulators, NGOs, IGOs, research groups and scientific bodies, community groups and the media.



International Research Centre
on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI)
under the auspices of UNESCO 

Jožef Stefan Institute
Jamova cesta 39
SI-1000 Ljubljana


The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this website do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

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