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New research: Starting the AI policy dialogue in Africa

Web Foundation · January 30, 2018

Bots in Kenya now give answers to questions about reproductive health in a safe and confidential way, without having to visit a doctor’s office. In car-congested Nigeria, a travel app has been developed to navigate the roads with the best driving directions and public transport options to prevent getting stuck in traffic. Both of these technologies are based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), and both exemplify the types of new technologies that are being deployed across the continent.

While AI can improve the way we live and work today, it can also bring its own risks and challenges to Africa and beyond. There are increasing concerns that AI programmes and AI-supported decision-making systems may build in existing human biases that lead to discrimination, widening inequalities and increasing marginalisation.

The Web Foundation has recently published new research to put the spotlight on AI programmes and advancements in Africa. The study explores existing academic and commercial AI activity underway in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya. Like the examples from Kenya and Nigeria, we found several initiatives where AI applications are being used to address local development challenges in each country.

The report has used these insights to develop a number of recommendations for governments who want to start to shape the development of AI for the public good in their countries.

This research builds on previous Web Foundation research on the impacts of AI for low- and middle-income countries and provides an initial policy roadmap for both these countries and the wider African continent.

We look forward to furthering our understanding in this area and welcome your comments and ideas below.

 


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