How AI can accelerate Sport for Development

We publish these quarterly, with our CEO Preeti Shetty giving her insights into challenges and opportunities in the third sector, deep diving into areas such as impact, digital & tech, sport & non-sport sectors and MEL (Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning) trends. 

Sport has long been a powerful platform for promoting development and peace. It encourages physical health, fosters community spirit, and can even serve as a catalyst for societal change. At the recent 8th Commonwealth Debate on Sport and Sustainable Development, I had the privilege of advocating for the motion, "Artificial Intelligence is the answer to accelerating the power of sport to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030." This discourse underscored the transformative potential of AI in sports, particularly in advancing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At Upshot, as a tech4good social enterprise, we are constantly looking at emerging technologies which will help further the cause of all the sectors in the non-profit world we work with. Like many others we are only dipping our toes into using Artificial Intelligence (AI) for data functions such as data analysis, writing content and doing research. However the potential is clearly emerging and it would seem to be huge in all sectors - and certainly in sport for development, where use of technology and resources has historically been far from equitable for those delivering or even funding.

The Convergence of AI and Sport for Development

AI encompasses a range of technologies that can analyze complex data and automate responses or actions. In the realm of sport for development, AI opens up innovative avenues for achieving and tracking progress towards the SDGs. For instance, AI can optimise resource allocation, enhance participant performance, and elevate audience engagement, all the while promoting social and economic development through sports.

One compelling application of AI is in managing and optimising logistical aspects of sports events in developing regions. AI-driven solutions can streamline event planning, transportation, and crowd management, making sporting events more accessible and enjoyable, thereby encouraging greater community participation. Furthermore, AI can facilitate participant identification across remote or underprivileged areas, ensuring that no potential beneficiary goes unnoticed due to geographical or socio-economic barriers. AI is already being used to identify hate speech online to support organisations EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) goals and AI tools can help us process large data sets quickly and easily saving staff time so they can focus on delivering.

Enhancing Accessibility and Inclusion

AI technologies can also play a crucial role in making sports more inclusive. For example, AI-powered prosthetics and assistive devices can help differently-abled athletes perform at their best, promoting inclusivity in sports. Additionally, AI can be used to tailor physical education programs in schools to suit the needs of diverse student populations, fostering a culture of physical activity from a young age.

Moreover, AI can enhance the participant experience by providing personalized content and improving accessibility for people with disabilities through automated, real-time captioning and audio descriptions at sports events. These innovations not only boost fan-engagement but also ensure that sport remains a universal language of inclusion and enthusiasm.



Supporting Youth Development and Education

In educational contexts, AI can revolutionize how sports are used to support youth development. Through data analytics, AI can help track students' physical activities, health metrics, and overall progress in sports programs, providing valuable insights that can guide program improvements. Additionally, AI-driven virtual sports technologies can engage young people in physical education, especially in areas where traditional sports facilities may be lacking. AI can personalize learning by adapting materials to the needs of individual students. In regions where educational resources are limited, AI-powered solutions can provide scalable learning aids, offer language translation services, and facilitate remote learning opportunities.



Leveraging AI for Environmental Sustainability in Sports

AI's role in promoting environmental sustainability in sports is another area ripe with potential. By optimizing travel schedules and routes for teams and fans, AI can help minimize the carbon footprint associated with sports events. AI can also help in the maintenance of sports facilities, ensuring that resources like water and energy are used efficiently, which is crucial for sustainable development.

Addressing the Risks

While the benefits are substantial, it's crucial to address the inherent risks associated with AI in sports. Issues such as data privacy, security, and the potential for bias in AI algorithms are significant concerns. Ensuring that AI systems are transparent, equitable, and secure is essential to harness their full potential without compromising ethical standards or the trust of the public.

Moreover, there is a risk of over-reliance on technology, which could lead to diminished human oversight. It's important to maintain a balance where AI complements human capabilities without replacing them.

In Conclusion...

AI holds remarkable promise for advancing sport as a tool for development and meeting the SDGs by 2030. As we continue to explore and expand the intersections between AI and sports, we must also be vigilant about addressing the ethical and practical challenges that come with technological advancement. By fostering a thoughtful integration of AI in sports, we can ensure that this synergy not only enhances performance and engagement but also contributes significantly to societal well-being and global sustainability. The future of sport for development is here, and it is intricately linked with the future of AI.