United Nations CITO: Artificial intelligence will be humanity's final innovation

The United Nations Chief Information Technology Officer spoke with TechRepublic about the future of cybersecurity, social media, and how to fix the internet and build global technology for social good

Artificial intelligence, said United Nations chief information technology officer Atefeh Riazi, might be the last innovation humans create.

"The next innovations," said the cabinet-level diplomat during a recent interview at her office at UN headquarters in New York, "will come through artificial intelligence." 

From then on, said Riazi, "it will be the AI innovating. We need to think about our role as technologists and we need to think about the ramifications--positive and negative--and we need to transform ourselves as innovators."

Appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as CITO and Assistant Secretary-General of the Office of Information and Communications Technology in 2013, Riazi is also an innovator in her own right in the global security community. 

Riazi was born in Iran, and is a veteran of the information technology industry. She has a degree in electrical engineering from Stony Brook University in New York, spent over 20 years working in IT roles in the public and private sectors, and was the New York City Housing Authority's Chief Information Officer from 2009 to 2013. She has also served as the executive director of CIOs Without Borders, a non-profit organization dedicated to using technology for the good of society--especially to support healthcare projects in the developing world.

Riazi and her UN staff meet with diplomats and world leaders, NGOs, and executives at private companies like Google and Facebook to craft technology policy that impacts governments and businesses around the world.

TechRepublic's in-depth interview with her covered a broad range of important technology policy issues, including the digital divide, e-waste, cybersecurity, social media, and, of course, artificial intelligence.