The Future of AI in Africa
Artificial intelligence or AI as it is commonly and dearly called in nerd circles is one of the hottest trends in technology in this 21st century. As much as you would think that only developed countries are into AI, you couldn't be more wrong. African countries are also into exploring this technology. This is a positive development in the african tech space as african countries have been slower earlier to adopt technology that would have proven beneficial to its people had it been adopted earlier.
While AI is being explored majorly by big tech companies in developed countries, in developing countries, it is being explored by a few tech companies and small groups of individual tech enthusiasts with little to no support from the government despite the technology having the potential to revolutionize many major industries.
One of the major problems facing development of AI in Africa is lack of resources to enable exploration into the technology. Not many Africans or even some of the small tech firms can access powerful computers required to explore into AI. It is a major challenge to all AI enthusiasts in Africa as they have have less resources to play with compared to their counterparts in developed countries.
Although this is a challenge facing the development of AI worldwide, with AI being a new technology, shortage of AI specialists is more prudent in Africa as less people have been exposed to these technology. Also, most AI specialists in Africa are self-taught hence making their entry into job opportunities more challenging as many companies still check paper qualifications instead of actual skills when employing new workers. Obtaining AI certifications in Africa is also more challenging in Africa compared to developed countries as there are very few institutions that offer AI certifications in Africa while in developed countries there are many institutions in which somebody can study AI.
Many people, not only in Africa misunderstand AI thank s to memes and the thousands of conspiracy theories on the internet. It is a pity that even some tech savvy people don't understand Artificial Intelligence and still have their own presumptions about the technology depending on what they have heard on the media and from the internet. The problem with this is that people are following the crowd and creating their own perceptions of what AI is many perceptions of which are false. This ends up demonizing a technology that has the potential to bring another industrial revolution and entirely change our lives for the better.
Conspiracy theorists are largely to blame for the widespread fear of AI among the masses. With some spreading lies about how AI is a tool of world domination, will kill jobs and many other false information. The funny thing about all this is that majority (if not all) of the conspiracy theorists have very little understanding of AI. Their goal is to continue instilling fear on the masses and grab the attention of the media.
The news, YouTube videos, some blogs and other news outlets are misrepresenting AI as a complex technology being used only for the gain of big tech giants and developed countries for evil purposes. Yes, it is undeniable that AI can be used for some of the evil purposes such as mining people's personal data and using it for commercial and political purposes. However, AI is just a tool and should be understood as such. It can be either used for greater good of humanity or for evil, - to manipulate, oppress and control. But we should all be optimistic and look at the brighter side of AI, where it can be used to heal complex diseases that have troubled humanity for ages and solve other challenges facing humanity.
Most people associate AI with robots which are being trained to be able to do almost anything. While this may sound like a cool idea to companies which if it is successful, ill never have to pay human employees again, it may not resonate as well with the employees who rely on the jobs as a source of living. Imagine this, you train for a job for several years in college, work on it for the better part of your lifetime only for it to be taken over by a robot.And also you can't find a similar job elsewhere because other companies are using robots too. Doesn't sound so cool right?
While such hostile job takeovers are possible with AI, it is not enough reason to dismiss the whole idea. Imagine what would have happened if computers had been banned because they were taking over jobs from clerks and messengers. Or phones banned because they were taking over call assistants' jobs. The truth is, we don't know the potential of AI no matter how much we may want to pretend we know. It may turn out to be a revolutionary technology that improves life for every single person on earth.
This is a matter of when not if. AI is already wit us and it is our duty to ensure we use it to the best for the good of humanity while having safeguards against the use of AI and other new technologies to exploit or harm other people. Corporations experimenting in order to increase their revenues should ensure they do so within ethical boundaries.
I would like to encourage all tech enthusiasts and tech companies in Africa to explore more into this technology not only for personal gain but with an aim to improve life for everybody in Africa and beyond. Africa should take this as an opportunity for to put itself on the global charts of technology innovation instead of always adopting technology that has become mainstream in other countries. Africans should not be afraid to go all out on researching this new technology and even expanding horizons by creating new technologies that will improve life for Africans and for others.
We should not let the challenges we face make us weak or kill our determination. The challenges should make us stronger as we crush them one after another on our way towards building the best lives possible for ourselves and for others.