United Nations Development Programme Competition by Elsa Zhong

Elsa Zhong, ART-AI cohort 1 student, writes about her participation in a United Nations Development Programme Competition.

Elsa Zhong, ART-AI cohort 1 student, writes about her participation in a United Nations Development Programme Competition.

From August this year, I led an interdisciplinary group with the aim to attend the U&AI AI for SDGs Youth Bootcamp, the world’s leading platform for youth-led, innovative, scalable AI-based solutions to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

It was a long journey spanning over five months. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, more than 3000 young people across 50 countries attended this competition, and after the initial 2 months, 14 teams won the global semi-final and were selected to attend the global final competition. Our team was one of the 14.

After winning the semi-final, our team increased from four to nine members. Our team members’ backgrounds were very diverse, ranging from AI, finance, business, consumer behaviour and design.

My Team Members

Our team proposed a financial Robo-advisor for low-income groups with metaverse based on the Chinese E-RMB application. There are 730 million low income people in China who are lacking financial education and social networks to provide financial advice which can cause insecurity in special circumstances such as an economic crisis and a global pandemic. To help these low income people, we designed a Robo-advisor that combines the virtual with reality to provide financial advice and education. Through providing real-life consumption advice and getting monthly feedback through the metaverse, we provide financial advice for the short term. Through acquiring real life financial knowledge and learning and practising in the metaverse, we are cultivating financial ability in the long term. As a result, our product enhances the overall well-being of the low-income group and further realizes sustainable development goals related to poverty and inequality.

On November 16th our team attended the global final. It was a bilingual live event broadcasted in Chinese and English by the UNDP China. My teammates and I presented our project to a panel of judges that included a representative of UNDP China; the Dean of the Institute of International Governance of Artificial Intelligence, Tsinghua University; the co-founder of the Future Association of Harvard University, and many other judges from industry, academia, and government. We were also presenting to an audience from all over the world. 

Despite our team not winning the final competition, we tried our best and performed perfectly from our perspective. All of my team members feel super proud of what we did, and our facilitators also spoke highly of our performance.

I have to admit that leading an interdisciplinary team was really challenging, but also extremely inspiring, and, during the whole process, I learned how to best deal with conflicting opinions of team members, how to compromise, and how to drive the balance between being well-organized and being creative. During this competition, all the team members have become good friends and long-term collaborators. We have all learnt a lot from each other during this process and we think that this learning experience has been more important than the final results. 

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