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New AI research network in sub-Saharan Africa

Published on
September 26, 2018
Where will artificial intelligence (AI) lead and who will it benefit? The new IDRC-supported artificial intelligence research for development network in sub-Saharan Africa seeks to improve our understanding of how AI will impact human development.

There is a general consensus that AI is changing our world and that it is here to stay. AI is becoming a vital commercial opportunity in every sector — PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that it will provide a US$15.7 trillion boost to the world’s gross domestic product by 2030.

However, the future of AI is uncertain. While these technologies have accomplished impressive feats — including diagnosing disease and making self-driving cars a reality — other profound, and perhaps darker, implications have emerged. Alongside well-noted and lauded benefits, AI may also destroy jobs through automation, reinforce social discrimination through biased algorithms, and be weaponized for harm.

The hype surrounding AI is spreading rapidly across sectors and around the globe, but more research is needed to explore the potential benefits and risks, particularly as they relate to the developing world. 

A recent mapping of AI talents, actors, and knowledge hot spots in the Global South illustrates the extent to which universities, start-ups, and other sectors already engage with AI across Africa. Now, in collaboration with Knowledge 4 All Foundation and the new UNESCO Chair in AI at University College London, IDRC will fund a series of consultations and workshops to build a network of AI researchers and innovators in sub-Saharan Africa. A critical focus for this network will be how AI can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

For more on AI’s potential impact on the developing world, read IDRC’s white paper Artificial intelligence and human development: toward a research agenda.

Click on image to enlarge.

Knowledge 4 All Foundation Ltd. Map of AI distribution and hot spots in low to middle income countries.