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Business opportunities in artificial intelligence that Kenyan youth can tap into

By Jesse Wu | Published Thu, August 23rd 2018 at 00:00, Updated August 23rd 2018 at 00:08 GMT +3

Almost everyone has, at one time, sent that ridiculous message that is either incomprehensible, or the meaning is completely altered because a word was auto corrected, leaving the recipients in stitches.

This is especially if you try typing in Kiswahili or a vernacular language and you get various reactions, from embarrassing misrepresentations to crisis level explanations with your boss or spouse.

But have you ever wondered how Auto Correct works? Smart mobile phones are very interesting devices, they have a software that works like a spell checker, which as you type refers to the words in the cell phone dictionary and when it does not find a match, gives an alternative.

And as smartphones develop they now try to predict what you’re going for and suggest a word before you’ve finished typing it. The phone’s list of words has to be both comprehensive and well-targeted for its audience, stuffed with colloquialisms that a modern mobile user might employ.

And here is where you can come in as an African entrepreneur seeking to make life less embarrassing for people around you while making a buck for yourself. You can develop a dictionary or enrich the ones already adopted with some unique expressions that are localised to your target audience like say, input sheng in these algorithms, and that is essentially Artificial Intelligence (AI).

When people think about AI, they imagine huge industrial robots, manufacturing grade computers or high octane research in some fancy institution.

But actually AI can be relatively inexpensive and allow any entrepreneur with IT skills or interest to tap into the opportunities it offers. In a nutshell, AI is technology that allows machines and software to perform tasks that humans would otherwise have to do, such as speech recognition, visual perception, language translation and even decision making tasks.

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It is estimated that about Sh4.1 trillion ($41 billion) will be invested in artificial intelligence systems for businesses by 2024 and many more jobs will be created in the industry.

Big strides are being made in technology, whether it’s in the realm of AI and machine learning, or big data analytics which offer opportunities to young people who find it increasingly difficult to get employed and must harness entrepreneurship.

Kenyan culture

For instance Kenya has adopted digital literacy for class one students with the government providing computers and tablets to little kids. The opportunity is for Kenyans who can write software applications customized to the students’ needs, and understands nuances of Kenyan culture, such as comparing the letters in the alphabet to local examples for young beginners.

By simply writing learning material that students can relate with in conformity with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development principles can go a long way in getting local students to interact more conveniently with their tablets and iPads. Here, opportunities lie in developing games that can even be educational with the machines learning the students’ progress and directing them.

Kenya being a tourism focused country, it also offers a diverse opportunity for the creation of holograms, virtual tours, games and more to market the country’s resources to tourists arriving at various local destinations. Creative applications with captivating and scenic videos can be loaded onto Virtual Reality compatible mobile phones and sold off to hotels, parks, tour companies among others to be used for marketing Kenya.

Opportunities in AI also lie in Agriculture which is one of the country’s mainstay. Digital technology and machine learning is currently being deployed in some countries to communicate between farmer and livestock.

Expert analysis

Such advanced AI will ride the wave of the 5G mobile network pioneered by Qualcomm Technologies and OPPO Global, which is going to change the global mobile industry structure, and mobile phones will become the major terminal for the Internet of Things.

Take for instance an AI application named Ida, which is being used in other markets to send android phone alerts: when cows are chewing the cud, when they’re feeling sick, when they’re ready for insemination. This helps the farmer run a more efficient dairy farm by learning behaviors of his cattle stock.

Safaricom’s Digifarm also promises to gather intel on farming trends, market habits, and collects expert analysis to create a depot of information that can help farmers plan when to plant, what input they need, where the market is, and even inform county officials of where to allocate resources like extension officers. Meanwhile, they have created an opening for extending loans to these farmers to meet their needs in the farming cycles.

Young people here have the opportunities like developing applications that send a text to farmers whenever the soil is dry and enable them activate sprinklers remotely.

The field of artificial intelligence is limitless: for as long as humans are looking to create solutions that make life easier, more convenient, that enable us to have smarter and more efficient living, and that raise the standards of life, there will always be an opportunity. What it takes is for us to challenge ourselves more, learn from already existing technology, and improve today’s solutions for a better tomorrow, and for a healthier and more sustainable planet.

Mr Wu is the Brand Manager, OPPO (Kenya)

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

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