Using AI to link to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

UNSILO is working with the OECD publishing and communications team to help link all OECD content (plus the content of other inter-governmental organisations published on the OECD iLibrary) to the United Nations 17 Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). This is part of a wider focus on AI at the OECD.

The OECD recently launched a  “Going Digital” project, comprising a group of AI experts with the goal “to foster trust in AI”. This group, the Artificial Intelligence Expert Group, is looking to develop principles for the adoption of AI across industry and society in coming years, and to identify promising AI applications. 

From a taxonomy point of view, applying the UN SDGs to any organisation’s content is a real challenge. The goals were adopted by the UN in September 2015, and have had a huge impact since their launch. They represent goals that we can all agree on, whether as individuals, corporations, or governments. Nonetheless, however admirable the goals, they don’t fit neatly with any existing formal taxonomy.  For example, SDG 3 is “good health and well-being”, which includes maternal health, child mortality, HIV/Aids, and drug abuse.

The OECD iLibrary contains well over 100,000 books, chapters, articles, and working papers, and while existing OECD content has plenty of coverage of SDG topics (such as quality of education, or reducing poverty), that content may not have been formally tagged with these concepts. To tag all these documents by hand to one or more of the 17 SDGs would be a formidable challenge (and would take several months).

UNSILO made it feasible to tag all that content using machine learning. By analysing OECD documents and identifying hundreds of core concepts from each document, UNSILO can match every document to the relevant SDG. Beyond that, the machine-based application can be run on new documents as they are published, so that within a few hours of publication, all OECD and partner publications have been tagged to the appropriate SDG if they contain relevant content.

Here is a great example of commonality between the outward-facing goals of the organisation and the internal publishing processes: the very goals of the expert group are exemplified in the publishing practice of the OECD itself.

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