Innovation & technology

What is Artificial Intelligence – and how does it affect YOU?

What’s the first thing you think of when someone says, “artificial intelligence”?


Self-driving cars?

Voices assistants? 

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is not something from the future. If you regularly use a cellphone and the internet, chances are that artificial intelligence is already a part of your daily life. You just might not be aware of it. 


An illustration of a young person sitting at a desk using a computer. He is also asking a voice assistant on his desk to play a song.
Voices assistants, which are becoming more and more popular around the world, use AI technology.

So, what is it?

Very simply, AI technology is when computers mimic tasks that are usually associated with humans. This includes things like making suggestions or predictions, recognizing what is in an image, recognizing what is being said or written by someone based on how it has been programmed, developing strategies in games, or even creating music or art. 

And this technology is already being used in so many ways, from recommending what song you should listen to next, suggesting a quicker route to get from A to B, to the latest app designed to improve your selfies. 

AI technology has the potential to help us solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity – like climate change or new diseases – but it could also create new problems if we’re not careful. 

Scroll down to learn more. 

What do children & youth think about AI?

Hear what young people from South Africa, Brazil and Sweden think about AI.

In 2020 UNICEF consulted 245 adolescents from Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Sweden, and the United States to learn about their views and understanding of AI systems. 

Find out what they had to say in this new report from UNICEF.



“In general, the digital world and AI world has not been adapted for adolescents, because it is mostly created only by adults. So, clearly, there is an adult-centric bias ...."


The cover of the report

AI and Your Rights


You might be thinking, why do I need to be concerned about AI when there’s so much going on?


1. Impact on our lives

More and more, AI is going to affect all parts of our lives – education, healthcare, communication, transport, jobs and more. When we know how the technology works, we can advocate for  companies and governments to  take the necessary steps to prevent negative impacts, maximize the positive effects on our human rights. 

For example, in some places around the world, AI technology is being used to determine whether someone should be admitted to a university or receive a job interview. If this technology is not programmed carefully to avoid prejudices, some people may be denied an opportunity. Or when facial recognition technology is used to fight crime, if it doesn’t work properly it can lead to innocent people being arrested.  

A creative illustration of two people using a translation machine to communicate in different languages


2. AI technology is created by people

AI technology is created by people which means, it can sometimes be affected by the ways in which we see the world – our prejudices and the gaps in our knowledge.​ It is helpful for us to think about the people creating the technology:​ 

  • ​Do they represent diverse backgrounds, places, and experiences? Do they have prejudices that could impact the technology?​ 

  • Are they willing, or able, to explain to the public how the technology works?​ 

  • Do they fully understand how their work may impact people's lives ?​ 

  • Are they considering the needs of children and looking out for their best interests? 


3. AI technology relies on a lot of data about us

Finally, AI technology also relies on a lot of data about us. Whenever we use our devices or the internet, we leave behind a digital footprint – the topics we read the most in the news, the things we buy online, the people we talk to the most. This data can be used by companies to create new technologies and impact on our right to privacy.  

An illustration of a young woman using a face filter on a social media application
Have you ever wondered how face filters work? They use a form of AI technology in which computers can identify a face in an image.
“AI might be able to predict some types of natural disasters and we’ll be able to evacuate people out of an area before it happens. And AI might also help us come up with solutions to humanitarian issues” – Zoe, South Africa

Your AI Questions Answered

A team of experts from UNICEF is here to answer them!
Is AI Good or Bad?​
Technology is rarely simply good or simply bad – it depends on who is creating it and for what purpose, who is using it and how. ​

This means we need rules which can help maximize the good and minimize the bad outcomes. ​ But who makes the rules? Do innovators and companies creating new technologies care about the rules? And what should happen to those who break the rules?​

Right now, UNICEF is working with governments and companies to help them create and improve rules that protect children’s rights. Learn more about that here:
Will AI take away jobs?
Throughout history, great technological advances have had an impact on the job market. As AI technology becomes more widely used it may lead to some jobs no longer being necessary.

But it is important to remember that this will also lead to new types of jobs being created. Jobs that involve personal interaction, empathy and care, are unlikely to be impacted in the near future. What’s important is that young people are well-prepared and equipped with the rights skills to enter this dynamic job market.
Are robots going to take over?
While this is a very popular theme in movies and books, the technology is not that developed yet.

But it is important that we are all educated and aware of the presence of AI in our lives, so as the technology evolves, we can hold companies and governments accountable.

Learn more


If you're interested in knowing more about AI check out these resources: