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AI for Africa – Kenya White Paper Launched

Dr. Isaac Rutenberg, Director of Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), speaking at the launch of the AI for Africa - Kenya white paper launch. Looking on is Christopher Akiwumi, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs, Microsoft East Africa.

Strathmore University Law School (SLS) partnered with Microsoft and Access Partnership in the launch of a white paper titled “Artificial Intelligence for Africa: An opportunity for Growth, Development and Democratization.” Hosted by SLS on April 17, 2019, the event brought together experts, leaders and professionals in the field of technology to hold discussions on how Kenya can leverage on AI in a way that ensures social and economic growth, development and inclusion. The discussions were also geared towards the several opportunities and challenges that AI presents to Kenya.

The partnership will allow exploration of the world of AI and provide direction for academic researchers and technology experts in Kenya to collectively innovate and develop applications in various sectors such as agriculture, energy, banking, healthcare, education and transport, and also champion development of AI ecosystem in Africa for the good of humanity. The partnership also aims at incorporating AI in solving some of the most pressing challenges in Africa and enhance growth and development of these sectors.

Promoting the growth of an AI ecosystem in Africa

Dr. Isaac Rutenberg, Director of Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) at Strathmore University, said, “Bias from the use of AI has already been observed in practical applications. The risk now is that AI exacerbates social inequalities, and reinforces anti-competitive markets. AI policy and governance will be extremely important in the coming years.”

The launch of AI for Africa seeks to engage policy-makers, innovative start-ups, global technology partners, civil society groups and international stakeholders in mobilizing and promoting the growth of an AI ecosystem in Africa. Microsoft commissioned Access Partnership, a leading technology consultancy, with the elaboration of the white paper. The paper highlights the significant opportunities that AI can bring to the continent and identifies risks and challenges associated to the technology.

Training government officials on AI skills

The paper also offers recommendations as to the type of framework that countries should consider in order to maximize the benefits and reach of AI. Among the recommendations that were put across were investment in research systems and university programmes which enhance specialization in the AI space, public dialogue and participation in AI as a way of engaging and listening to them as well as fostering cross-border partnerships to enhance research in AI.

Microsoft also seeks to use the paper as a foundation for various events that it will hold in several leading countries in Africa. The multi-national company has made strides towards reducing skill gaps that tend to curb the growth of AI application in Africa by engaging the government through training government officials on AI skills so as to enable capacity building.

Revolutionizing the social and economic space in Kenya

It was noted that AI has had its way in revolutionizing the social and economic space in Kenya. In agriculture, for instance, there are applications that help farmers to get credit, detect weather patterns and treat crops as well as carry out soil tests.

When questions pertaining to the challenges that AI might cause to Kenya arose, Sebuh Haileleul, Country Manager at Microsoft East Africa (MEA), responded, “Great technology comes with great responsibility. Technology can cause disruption and we need to provide policies for responsible data governance and data privacy.”

Responding to the measures that the company has put in place to counter the issue of the existing skill gaps in the world, Christopher Akiwumi, Director, Government and Regulatory Affairs, MEA said, “Microsoft has partnered with some technology companies such as Techno Brain and, as a result, people acquire job opportunities in areas like system development which enhance innovation of security systems which utilize AI.”

This article was written by Odhiambo Obonyo.


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