UNDP in Kyrgyzstan: Artificial intelligence against natural disasters and dangerous diseases

ПРООН в Кыргызстане: Искусственный интеллект против природных катастроф и опасных болезней

Daurbek Sakyev from the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Kyrgyzstan at an AI weather station installed as part of a UNDP project. UNDP in Kyrgyzstan: Artificial intelligence against natural disasters and dangerous diseases Anton Uspensky Climate and Environment

There are more than two thousand high-mountain lakes on the territory of Kyrgyzstan, of which 368 are classified as outburst-hazardous. To protect the population from natural disasters, it is necessary to predict such phenomena in time. In Kyrgyzstan, with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), artificial intelligence was involved in solving the problem. Anton Uspensky from the UN News Service asked colleagues from UNDP in Kyrgyzstan and government officials about these projects.

AI and disaster risk management

Alexandra Solovyova, UNDP Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, spoke about two new programs based on the latest technologies using artificial intelligence. “Our project with the Ministry of Emergency Situations helps to implement a unified information system for monitoring glacial lake outbursts,” she said. – Artificial intelligence can help manage disaster risks by using machine learning and algorithms to monitor and predict glacial lake outbursts and landslides, respectively. The system also helps to inform the authorities and citizens about potential dangers.”

Breakthrough glacial lakes

Daurbek Sakiyev, director of the Department of Monitoring and Forecasting of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Kyrgyzstan, in an interview with the UN News Service explained that the work was carried out in three areas: developing a national disaster plan, strengthening capacity to manage risks from glacial lake outbursts and modernizing the population protection system at the local level, including through updating and strengthening mudflow diversion channels.

«There are more than 2,000 high-mountain lakes on our territory, of which 368 high-mountain glacial lakes belong to the category of outburst hazards,” Sakiyev emphasized. – That is, depending on the high-water years, from the intense melting of glaciers, lakes are formed and filled. And if there is a breakthrough of these lakes in case of overflow, catastrophic mudflows are formed. There are many such cases in Kyrgyzstan. In connection with recent climate changes, a global increase in temperature and degradation of glaciers in Kyrgyzstan, this threat is increasing.  New lakes are forming, which pose a threat to infrastructure and settlements, and in general to our citizens.”

Climate change 

According to the expert, according to scientists’ forecasts, natural disasters will only become more frequent in the next 50 years. “We expect changes in emergency situations, natural disasters, that is, an increase in the number of natural disasters, including those related to the cryosphere and the field of glaciology. Therefore, we took up precisely this task together with UNDP,” he added.  

As Daurbek Sakyev reported, artificial intelligence predicts the rise in water levels based on satellite imagery and sends a signal to the Ministry of Emergency Situations when the situation begins to cause concern.

AI Help

«This program, this module, allows us to automatically, using space imagery, using global climate models, obtain data on lakes in our republic, conduct an automatic assessment of their filling using special cartographic tools: this is an assessment of the lake surface area and a retrospective analysis – a comparison of archival images from past years and the lake surface area, – he said. – The system itself carries out certain calculations and issues a signal to the operator, to the specialist, who receives the information and then transmits it to our response services, local governments. Information about the possibility of a lake breakthrough, so we are already preparing and issuing forecasts.”

As the representative of the Ministry of Emergency Situations clarified, this approach is being used in Kyrgyzstan for the first time. Previously, to collect information on the condition of glacial lakes, it was necessary to either conduct field research, walk to the lake in mountainous conditions and assess the condition of the dam and the lake’s filling level, or carry out flights by helicopter, which required large financial costs. Now the situation has changed.

“The system itself finds these lakes, comparing them with previous archival data, finds the necessary images itself and gives us a preliminary analysis, and then we carry out a more in-depth analysis to verify, confirm, these data. We either send a special ground team, or our specialists fly out by helicopter and make field observations on the spot. This is the main work that was done within the framework of the UNDP project with funding from the Japanese government,” noted Daurbek Sakiyev.

Knowledge sharing 

Kyrgyzstan is confident that the experience gained after the introduction of the new system will be useful to other countries, and the developments can be used outside of Kyrgyzstan. According to the director of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, interest in this unique solution has already been expressed in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and a number of other countries, such as Indonesia and Nepal. The head of the UNDP office in the country, Alexandra Solovyova, shares this opinion.

“The element of knowledge exchange is always very important in our projects, since UNDP is such a global network of knowledge, offices where you can exchange expertise and bring it to the local level, and also vice versa from the local, national level to share with other countries,” she is convinced . 

Use of AI in the healthcare system

Another initiative that has received support from UNDP in Kyrgyzstan is the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. “This innovative digital solution was developed and applied as part of our initiative, funded by the Global Fund, at the request of the national and anti-tuberculosis program,” said Solovyeva. – The project is aimed at strengthening control over tuberculosis and AIDS. And here, nine portable X-ray machines were installed and put into operation for regional tuberculosis control centers, as well as the city hospital in Bishkek. They are equipped with an artificial intelligence function and allow you to more quickly and accurately diagnose any pathological changes in the lungs.” ~strong> Tamara Bayalieva described the benefits of innovation. “You can carry the equipment in an ordinary passenger car and immediately conduct an X-ray examination,” she said. – This device is programmed so that it recognizes changes in the lungs, including tuberculosis. For example, so many percent of the probability of tuberculosis.  And you don’t need a specialist radiologist.  Any employee can go, even a nurse, and take an x-ray on the spot. And it may reveal some change. This is a very good help.”

Recently, as Bayalieva reported, thanks to the use of this device in one of the regions of the republic, it was possible to identify two people with active tuberculosis among 266 people. “But they worked at the factory, among other people. If it had not been detected in time, there would have been further spread [of the infection],” she added.

The device’s capacity is up to 300 people per day. “We even identified cardiac pathology, chronic obstructive diseases, pneumonia, some pulmonary diseases,” said the head physician. 

Digitalization in Kyrgyzstan

The use of new technical solutions using artificial intelligence in Kyrgyzstan is not limited to just the two examples given. According to the head of the UNDP office, the level of digitalization in the country is constantly growing. “If we look at digital transformation and the digital economy in Kyrgyzstan, we will see that a lot is being done by the government and quite developed systems for providing public services exist,” Solovyova noted. “That is, we are talking about the existence of a digital ecosystem at the national level.”

UNDP works closely with the Ministry of Digital Development and a number of other ministries. “Digitalization, of course, concerns different sectors,” explained the interlocutor of the UN News Service. “This requires a systematic approach to strengthen the digital system, remembering that both artificial intelligence and other digital solutions have the potential to bridge the digital divide and ensure inclusion.” 


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