AI To Play Key Role In Africa’s Economic Growth And Democracy According To Microsoft Whitepaper

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Artificial intelligence is the future. Image from https://news.microsoft.com/apac/2017/02/22/asia-pacific-youth-expect-artificial-intelligence-to-have-biggest-impact-on-their-future-microsoft-survey/

The mention of Artificial Intelligence immediately sparks an interesting need to fathom further what exactly this phenomenon is. AI is a constellation of technologies that enable machines to act with higher levels of intelligence and emulate human capabilities to sense, comprehend, and act.

Microsoft in partnership with Strathmore University has launched the AI for Africa White paper. According to the whitepaper, Artificial Intelligence will play a key role in Kenya’s growth, development and democratisation.

AI is able to escalate efficiency by broadening the scope in key sectors for Africa which include agriculture, healthcare, financial services, and government services.

Winnie Karanu who is the Business Development and Program Manager at Microsoft says that provision of high-quality digital tools to the society will empower them to compete at a global level.

An unmatched period of technological innovations is driving the growth of AI. The two critical factors driving this growth are;

1. the increase of digitized data in the global economy and the unlimited access to computing power
2. lower costs for data storage now available over the cloud.

In the previous century, technological breakthroughs such as the railway, electricity and information technology brought about productivity and increased input and output. AL in itself will create an exclusive new factor of production.

AL can drive growth in three important ways;
• Intelligent automation of the workforce.
• Augment both labour and physical capital.
• Drive innovation.

WHAT AI WILL MEAN FOR AFRICA

Africa has some challenges including poverty, wanting education systems to poor health care services. AL can help address these challenges

AI is set to fuel new economic growth. According to a recent study on the long-term economic impact of AI around the world, AI has the potential to double a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate by 2035. Harnessing a tiny fraction to this will be of notable growth.

Key Sectors

Agriculture

The agricultural sector employs over 65% of the continent’s labour force and accounts for 32% of gross domestic product (GDP). The World Bank estimates that African food markets will be worth USD 1 trillion by 2030 up from the current USD 300 billion. Due to population, growth, demand for food is projected to at least double by 2050. Farmers are using apps to plant and find out weather conditions in order to plant. They are also getting loans via some of these apps. AI has a lot of potential in the agricultural sector.

Drone technology, for example, can be used to plant and fertilize seeds at a speed beyond human abilities.

Healthcare

Various constraints are being experienced in African countries healthcare systems. There are provisions by AL that will ultimately fill the multiple gaps experienced in Africa’s health system.

AL will be used to empower and supplement staff, improve healthcare and public health policy, give better diagnostics and improve detection, access and also tailor-make medical interventions.

Government and Governance

Embezzlement, corruption and miserably inadequate policies are words used when describing the governments in most African countries. AL through its able technological innovations can significantly improve the current situations. Convenience, safety, efficiency and digitization are some of the ways AI  is a solution for governance in Africa. More informed decisions can be made as AI plans to actively enhance citizen participation.

AI can be used to reduce governance and administrative costs, increase public sector efficiency, and make it more effective to deliver public service.

Education

AI’s systematized technology seeks to empower both teachers and students alike thus ensuring proficiency. AI can be used to automate basic activities like grading, freeing up time for teachers to perform other important tasks, including interacting with students, preparing for class, or working on professional development. Likewise, it can offer additional support to students through intelligent tutoring systems and automated teaching agents.

AFRICA’S AI STAKEHOLDERS

There are a variety of players involved in the success of AI. They include; policymakers, academia, industry, civil society and the international community.

Policy Makers

Policy-makers basically create plans and form decisions in the legal, regulatory, and business environments that reward innovation, investment, and technology-based development.

Many governments in Africa have begun to take steps to promote AI in their countries. Kenya, for example, was the first African country to launch an open data portal to make information on education, energy, health, population, poverty, and water and sanitation, which was previously very hard to access, available to citizens.

Academia 

AI is progressively providing direction for academic researchers thus gaining preeminence in institutions across Africa.
Projects that are key in the burgeoning of economies have commenced in Africa and show a high success rate thanks to AI.

Industry 

The industry has always been crucial as it generates wealth and employment. It also provides insights to the government and it also has an invaluable scope for creativity and productivity.

With the rise of AI’s technology, the working class will need to learn new skills to help in disseminating information through multiple channels to gain relevant insights.

Google for instance recently announced the opening of a Google AI Research Centre in Africa, which will be located in Accra, Ghana.

Civil Society

The civil society plays a crucial role in ensuring that misinformation, misuse and harassment of humans and their rights. Raising awareness among policymakers and citizens on use and misuse of AI should remain their top priority to avoid ethical challenges.

International Community

Cohesion on key issues will ensure the technology is used for the benefit of humanity. International organizations provide forums for sharing of experiences and best practices, which enables governments to approach issues from a common basis of discernment, reach compatible outgrowth and reduce the risk of discordant positions on indispensable matters.

The African Development Bank (ADB) has partnered with Microsoft to launch the Coding for Employment Programme, with the goal of preparing African youth for tomorrow’s jobs

Artificial Intelligence is as we may refer to it, the fourth industrial revolution. Africa’s governments, investors and other functional players must prepare for this transformation by ensuring policies regarding the use of AI are formulated, workers are trained for more complex tasks and also the education sector is prepared to use AI.

Find the white paper here.

Find out more about how the Microsoft Policy Innovation Centre Is Using Technology And Innovation To Deal With Emerging Policy Challenges In Africa

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