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Artificial intelligence critical to solve problems facing humanity

By Liliosa Mbirimi | Jan 12th 2020 | 4 min read

Africa has been witnessing a trend where several global tech corporations are investing heavily in existing companies and startups in the tech field. There has been a rise in the number of global tech giants setting up shop on the continent. Many are possibly realising the massive potential the sector holds in a region recorded to host the fastest growing economies.

Some of them are tapping into the presence of many brilliant minded individuals who lack opportunities to fully utilise their skills due to weak infrastructure in the tech sector. In an era that has seen the most dramatic technological disruptions, a good majority of tech companies are seeking ways to remain relevant and to prepare for tech evolutions in real time.

Experts have already identified artificial intelligence (AI) as a key driver of these evolutions. It is in this regard that brands have been capitalising on this shift by constantly innovating so as to survive in the highly competitive market landscape. As the wave moves faster, there is a growing need for individuals to possess the skills required for the digital revolution. These skills are not always available in learning institutions, so several organisations have deployed measures geared towards empowering tech enthusiasts with the right skills.

African AI experts earlier this year to trained tech aspirants all over Africa under a programme dubbed “Intelligence Degree.” We have also seen other programmes such as the annual Deep Learning Indaba meetings that seek to deepen knowledge on artificial intelligence and machine learning across Africa.

At Samasource, a leading AI and data annotation employer in East Africa, the aim is to equip youth with the relevant digital skills required to produce high quality data training for AI.

Launchpad accelerator Africa, a programme by Google, has been mentoring individuals who seek to customise solutions for respective local markets. The initiative has since employed a large number of scientists and engineers.

Willingness among tech experts to support the community is apparent and goes a long way in furthering the tech revolution.

For Kenya to be well prepared for this revolution, we should establish an elaborate plan to facilitate AI learning in the education sector and incentivise entrepreneurs to delve into the AI sector. It is prudent for Kenya to form bonds with AI experts from other countries within the African region in order to understand the full AI landscape. 

AI communities across the world have been forming strategic partnerships to make greater strides and as a country we stand to learn a lesson from them. France and China have forged a partnership in AI that is yielding great results. Canada has managed to develop a great synergy between its political entities and AI community. As a result of the receptive environment, Montreal now hosts centers of major tech corporations. 

Another critical step would be setting out a framework to mobilise financial and human resources. This would be necessary to curb brain drain.

Establishing a network comprising institutes involved in artificial intelligence would help retain tech talents in the country, recruit African experts to address challenges in AI from an African context, as well as join forces with academic institutions. Efforts have to be put in addressing the long list of growing fear stemming from heinous uses of AI, ranging from loss of jobs, to concerns that computers may surpass human intelligence; to encompass alarm over leaking of personal data and the plausibility of AI being weaponized or used for gene editing. 

To ensure AI exists to better humanity, it is crucial to have regulations in place that enforce ethical use of AI. It is important to encourage conversations on this topic not only to enhance its knowledge but to also determine ways of mitigating the risks it has been associated with.

Some initiatives are already in place to ensure the integrity of AI and mitigate risks. On a global platform, Google laid down standards in June 2018 to govern how they conduct research and develop products. The European Commission in April 2018 set an ethical guideline for AI.

Samasource works closely with clients to ensure high quality output which is free of bias, and joined PAI (Partnership for AI) to help embed human rights, sustainability and ethics considerations for data capture.

It is important to keep building on a foundation that guarantees AI aids in bettering lives in Africa and beyond. With strategic planning and meaningful dialogue, the AI revolution could become the driver of digital and economic growth for Kenya.

– The writer is the Impact Source manager at Samasource Kenya.

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