The AI4Youth ELSA Lab

Published on: 20 December 2022

The attention being paid to interactions between humans and AI technology is increasing, but young people were hardly involved in that for a long time. And that is despite them being a group that is growing up in a world where AI is already having a major impact and where it is clear that the impact of that technology is only going to get bigger. The AI4Youth ELSA Lab is therefore actively involving young people in the development of AI systems and how they are deployed.

What social challenges in AI are being worked on?

The youngest generations of Dutch society are already in contact with plenty of applications based on artificial intelligence (AI). It happens not only at home but also at school and in public spaces. All in all, therefore, this is the group that is exposed most often and for longest to all the effects of this new technology. Sometimes these are applications that are aimed directly at young people, such as when AI is applied in education. But does that really help young people? And how do AI applications affect young people’s development? Such questions have hardly been considered, concluded Karolina La Fors, who conducted PhD research for the University of Twente into the ethical, legal and social implications of semi-automated risk profiling systems and how they are applied in the arenas of young people, professionals and society. In that regard, it means the Netherlands is not yet complying with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the country is a signatory.

In the meantime, AI is taking off and its influence is growing in all aspects of young people’s lives. An approach is therefore needed in the public debate on AI that allows young people’s voices to make themselves genuinely heard and lets their ideas and wishes be included . They should also be able to participate actively in the thinking and decision-making about the development of new AI solutions. Based on La Fors’ conclusions and recommendations, the University of Twente’s DesignLab decided to tackle the issue. And that led to a broad collaboration that has now thus grown into the AI4Youth ELSA Lab.

What types of solutions are offered to the end user?

It is about developing a transdisciplinary infrastructure for AI research, with an active contribution from the youngest generation. This is done through co-creative research that produces AI applications that are focused on young people. These are scalable applications that not only comply with the legal requirements but also with ethical guidelines and society’s wishes. The projects that the ELSA Lab is tackling always address one of the three primary living environments that young people develop in: home, school or the city. The focus here is naturally always on AI solutions that fit in with the worldviews of young people and that can genuinely help them progress. To make sure this is all streamlined properly, the AI4Youth ELSA Lab is launching various learning communities and field labs.

What AI methods or techniques are used in the research?

The research is centred primarily on AI applications that young people are already dealing with, such as search systems and recommender systems, or computer interfaces and speech recognition that use robotics technology to study the interactions with the users (e.g. in a museum environment). In everything this ELSA Lab does, there is also an extra focus on how to get young people involved. The researchers are therefore using the Pre-Ethics Tool, which is specifically aimed at development processes in which vulnerable target groups are involved.
A key goal of the co-creation sessions with young people is to produce AI systems that focus on the healthy development of young people in society. This means that those sessions also play an important role in developing appropriate guidance methods that help achieve that desired use of AI. Inclusivity is closely monitored too; field labs focusing on AI applications for deaf children have been set up as part of the AI4Youth network, for instance.

We collaborating with other sectors

To widely implement participation by children in AI developments, numerous other parties have joined this ELSA Lab as well as centres of expertise and government bodies. These include KidsRights, Netwerk Mediawijsheid, Tetem, the National Library of the Netherlands, Rijnbrink, three science hubs (of Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and the University of Twente) and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. Education specialists and artists are also involved. Companies such as IJsfontein, Dotpin, 8D Games and Mulesoft are also helping to develop new solutions that use AI technology in the desired way.

What is the ultimate success this ELSA Lab can achieve?

That using a transdisciplinary ecosystem where co-creation is the starting point becomes daily practice in the Netherlands in AI applications for younger target groups. In other words, that young people will in the future be involved by default in the development of applications based on AI technology that are intended for them and with which they can interact and that learning communities and field labs help developers to co-create appropriate solutions that not only fit in well with what young people want but actually help them progress. This must of course all be within the legal frameworks and done in an ethical, socially desirable way that is in line with the ELSA concept.

Awarded the NL AIC Label

NL AIC Label

The Netherlands AI Coalition has developed the NL AIC Label to underline its vision for the development and application of AI in the Netherlands. An NL AIC Label formally recognises an activity that is in line with the aims and strategic goals of the NL AIC and/or the quality of that activity. NL AIC would like to congratulate the AI4Youth ELSA Lab.

More information?

Please contact Karolina La Fors, senior researcher Responsible Design, University Twente.

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