‘Collaboration, Investment Will Drive AI Technology in Africa’

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Emma Okonji in Dubai, UAE

Counting on the gains of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in nation building and development, participants at the just concluded AI forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), have insisted that effective collaboration between government and the private sector will speed up development among African countries.

They also called for proper investment in AI technology.
The forum, which was organised by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in partnership with the Minister of AI and Dubai Police, was designed to showcase the benefits of implementing the AI strategies among nations of the world, especially nations that are skeptical of the perceived negative implication of AI strategies like retooling of social culture and job loss.

Dubai’s Minister of State for AI, H.E. Omar Bin Sultan, who spoke on the macro economic impact of AI in nation building, said AI technology holds a lot of promises for African nations if their governments collaborate and invest properly in the AI technology that is currently shaping the world.

“With the advent of satellite-based internet connectivity, wireless connectivity, Internet of Things (IoT), and broadband penetration, which are largely driven by AI technology, Africans can grow from zero level to significant level in technology advancement, if the AI strategies are implemented across different sectors of the African economy,” the minister said, adding that the UAE is close to Africa and would be happy if African countries benefit tremendously through the adoption and implementation of AI strategies.

“Our approach in Dubai towards AI is to ‘talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk’ in the most committed manner that will bring about rapid development in the country.

“If there are envisaged issues with AI, governments should be able to handle such issues with proper regulatory framework,” the minister added.
According to him, AI technology could be applied to different sectors of the economy like health, where it is known to reduce the time of patient diagnosis and cure of specific ailments.

“With AI, human errors will be greatly reduced and the impact will be enormous in terms of national development. AI can increase the efficiency in governance and make the citizens happy, which is key to development,” the Dubai minister added.

Allaying concerns of possible job losses, the Director General, Smart Dubai Office, Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, said application of AI would only eliminate few unnecessary jobs and create new jobs that are digital, in line with the current technology evolution that is fast driving AI across globe.

Different panel sessions at the forum came up with options in recent survey that 41 per cent of consumers believe that AI would enhance business life someday and that AI technology could actually enhance productivity by 40 per cent.

The panellists explained that 84 per cent of global business organisations believe that AI would give them competitive advantage.
Issues were however raised on government policy and regulation on up-coming technologies like AI. The panellists argued that any country that regulates AI technology, is likely to stifle its growth.

The Chief Technology Officer and Director of IBM-MIT Lab for IBM, David Cox was of the view that regulatory guideline would help in controlling grey areas of the AI technology, but warned that over regulation may likely stifle its growth.

He said public trust on private sector players that would drive AI growth must but maintained to grow AI adoption in every nation. “Countries must develop ethical framework through the private sector operators, about regulation that will drive growth through AI adoption,” Cox said.

The Chief Executive Officer, Smart Dubai Government, UAE, H. E. Wesam Lootah, said Dubai was able to use the application of AI to coordinate government activities and governance. According to him, AI is driven by Machine Learning (ML), and the Dubai government has built its application around ML. Governments, he said, have a vital role to play by educating citizens on the ability of AI to scale businesses, and in doing so, must create the right environment.

In Nigeria the Minister of Communications, Dr. Adebayo Shittu, had said the country was keen on adopting and implementing new technologies to drive AI, but Nigeria is faced with infrastructure challenges.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta had said, “the country is currently making efforts to increase its broadband penetration from the current 33 per cent penetration to 70 percent penetration by 2023, which is one of the key infrastructure for technology advancement.”