Professor Mrs. Rita Akosua Dickson, Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) says it is imperative that Africa takes the investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and its responsible use seriously.
“AI holds much promise and is seen as a game changer in transforming the digital economy.
“Therefore, institutions of higher learning in the sub-Region should focus on programmes that are directed at equipping the next generation with the requisite tools to lead the digital revolution,” the Vice-Chancellor advised.
Prof. Mrs. Dickson was addressing a conference dubbed: “Responsible AI and Ethics – A Panacea to Digital Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa”, held at the Great Hall, Kumasi.
The programme was held under the auspices of the Responsible Artificial Intelligence Lab (RAIL), KNUST, and the Responsible Artificial Intelligence Network (RAIN) Africa, which seeks to promote the responsible adaptation and use of AI in sub-Saharan Africa.
It discussed topics ranging from AI in Healthcare, AI and Human Rights, and AI Applications to the Role of Afrocentric Datasets in Promoting Responsible AI in Africa.
There were also presentations on the normative issues of AI from a business and human rights perspective, AI ethics and machine learning for identifying teenage patients at risk of gestation hypertension.
The role of ‘Afrocentric’ datasets in promoting responsible AI in Africa, as well as AI ethics in finance were also looked at.
The two-day Conference comes in the wake of the varied challenges confronting the continent in developing AI such as a dearth of investment, a paucity of specialised talent and lack of access to the latest global research.
Researchers argue that these hurdles are being whittled down, albeit slowly, thanks to African ingenuity and to investments by multinational companies such as IBM Research, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, which have all opened AI labs in Africa.
Innovative forms of trans-continental collaboration such as Deep Learning Indaba (a Zulu word for gathering), which is fostering a community of AI researchers in Africa, and Zindi, a platform that challenges African data scientists to solve the continent’s toughest challenges, are gaining ground.
This is buoyed by the recent influx of several globally-trained African experts in AI.
“Digital development tools are the key enablers to drive economic transformation,” Prof. Dickson stated, stressing the need for AI solutions to be developed and deployed responsibly.
The rights and privileges of the human person must not be trampled upon in deploying AI solutions, the Vice-Chancellor cautioned, adding that datasets based on which models were trained should not be biased.
Prof. Kwabena Biritwum Nyarko, Provost of the College of Engineering, KNUST, said the theme for the conference was relevant and timely, because AI was transforming the way “we live and work and we are only beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of AI”.
According to the Provost, AI was making significant strides in various fields and expected to transform many industries in the coming years.
Due to that, the challenges of AI in data privacy, bias and ethical concerns must be addressed, he said.
He said the College of Engineering was committed to ensuring the success of the RAIN and RAIL activities, noting that that was clearly demonstrated by the KNUST College of Engineering hosting the first RAIL and RAIN Conference.
Prof. Jerry John Kponyo, Principal Investigator and Scientific Director, RAIL and RAIN Cofounder, RAIN Africa, said the RAIL and RAIN Conference was the fruit of five years of collaboration between the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering KNUST, and the Institute of Ethics in Artificial Intelligence (IEAI), Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany.
“Like the biblical mustard seed, what began as a collaboration between two institutions to serve as a voice of advocacy for the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence has grown to become a robust network of at least thirteen universities and organizations in the sub-Region,” he said.
Through the experience drawn from working in RAIN, the KNUST team, through funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), set up a Responsible Artificial Intelligence Lab (RAIL) to serve as a vehicle for building capacity in the responsible use of AI in the sub-Region, Prof. Kponyo said.
According to him, RAIL had satellite labs in Senegal and Cape Verde and supporting labs in Germany.
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