Watch the Live #AI4D Knowledge Webinar: Introducing the 2019 Government AI Readiness Index

Technologies have had an undeniable impact on improving living standards, connecting us together, and increasing productivity. With the right policies and institutional arrangements, governments can ensure that the benefits of artificial intelligence are shared broadly. This one-hour webinar will introduce and ignite a dialogue on this year’s Government AI Readiness Index and its implications on various regions. The dialogue will draw on the knowledge of leading regional experts who penned this report.

The Panelists

  • Hannah Miller, Report Lead Author from Oxford Insights, UK
  • Isaac Rutenberg, Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), Kenya
  • Fabrizio Scrollini, Executive Director of the Latin American Open Data Initiative, Uruguay
  • Alex Comninos, AI4D Policy & Regulation Focal Point, Research ICT Africa, South Africa

This webinar was moderated by Robert Muthuri, AI4D Policy & Regulation Focal Point, Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology, Kenya

If you wish to rewatch or missed the sold-out free webinar session, see below clip (Listen to it as a podcast):

When 

  • Wednesday, May 15, 2019, from 16h-17h PM Nairobi Time | 14h-15h PM London |  9h-10h AM ET – Ottawa Time 
  • This webinar will be hosted on Webex

The 2019 Government AI Readiness Index was produced by Oxford Insights with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

The Government AI Readiness Index 2019: More Equal Implementation Needed to Close Global Inequalities

In an era where AI-enabled systems already power a broad set of activities such as social media algorithms, autonomous vehicles, flight navigation systems, agricultural sensors, disease diagnosis, it is only poised to become ever-more pervasive. However, “AI can either accelerate the achievement of the [Sustainable Development] goals or entrench existing gaps,” says IDRC President Jean Lebel in a recent article.

With the right policies and institutional arrangements, governments can ensure that the benefits of disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence are shared broadly and help transform the way that public services are delivered and support better governance. The 2019 Government AI Readiness Index provides the first global panorama covering 194 countries and territories on governments’ preparedness to take advantage of the benefits of AI in their operations and delivery of public services.  


The 2019 ranking weighs several indicators for measuring government AI readiness with a focus on the responsible and ethical use of AI, weighting criteria such as the state of data protection and privacy laws and whether or not a national AI-related vision exists. The Index considers the availability of open government data, digital skills and education, and private sector capability to the scope and quality of digital public services, among others.

This year’s Index now includes in-depth analysis of AI readiness in regional contexts from regional experts. Regions and countries with strong economies, good governance, and innovative private sectors ranked higher on the Index. Governments in the Global North are still better positioned to reap the benefits of AI than their Southern counterparts, but there is an opportunity to address the imbalance. Otherwise, the differences in AI readiness between governments may increase the risk that certain countries could become testing grounds, where AI systems could be misused, and weaken the opportunities to use AI in support of the delivery for the common good and public welfare.

High-income countries with robust AI strategies and investments dominated the Top 10 spots of the Index. Singapore comes first, followed by the United Kingdom. Germany is third. Nordic countries – Finland, Sweden, and Denmark – secured top spots. Canada came in seventh place, ahead of France. Although Canada was the first country to announce a national AI strategy in early 2017 with a five-year $125-million plan, the index highlights opportunities for Canada to further invest in other dimensions of AI readiness.

Vibrant Artificial Intelligence Ecosystems in the Global South  

In contrast, Africa is the region positioned to benefit the most from improving and investing in AI readiness. No African countries came in the Top 50 with Kenya being edge out at 52nd. AI readiness in governments may have differing impacts in Africa than countries in the Top 10 such as Singapore. While the risk of AI-related automation of existing jobs in Africa is lower – for now – due to a larger informal sector, nevertheless AI may present new challenges and opportunities for fostering development in Africa. Governments in Africa will need to be ready to foster and encourage AI innovation through public and private sectors, to support new regulatory structures and deepen existing ones that will be needed to minimize potential harms, such as in health systems, and to consider how they will use AI-enabled technologies in their own policy making and service delivery.  

While Kenya is the only country out of the 46 sub-Saharan African states that has an AI-specific taskforce that is working towards a national strategy, the outlook for AI in Africa is positive. South Africa and Uganda recently announced the creation of their National Taskforces on emerging technologies. The development of AI is advancing at a rapid pace in sub-Saharan Africa. There is an important opportunity to support Government readiness in AI in order to ensure that countries from Africa are positioned to benefit from the potential of AI in their economies, health systems, service delivery and more. “African governments can capitalize on the late-mover advantage” to create smarter AI-related policies and institutional arrangements says Isaac Rutenberg, Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) and a contributor to the Index report.

Latin America’s AI future is still uncertain due to structural inequalities and governance challenges like weak privacy laws needed to enable the formulation of a clear AI policy and ethical framework for the region. Mexico leads this region’s rankings followed by Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil. Local AI capacity needs to be further strengthened and work closely with the public sector as there is an important disconnect between the AI ​community and the public sector. Across this region, we need “more investment tailored for the Latin American context and the right ethical and policy framework to kickstart an inclusive AI development cycle,” says Fabrizio Scrollini, Executive Director of the Latin American Open Data Initiative (ILDA).

Over the last two years, the interest in informal developer communities, the private sector, and researchers point to the growth of a vibrant and diverse AI ecosystem in the Global South. Similarly, as the Index uses secondary data, relying on traditional metrics of counting the number of patent applications and scientific publications on machine learning may underestimate the level and activity of innovation across middle and low-income countries.

The AI Network of Excellence in sub-Saharan Africa

To reduce the gap in AI readiness, IDRC is developing proposals with the Latin American and African AI communities. In recent regional workshops in Nairobi and Mexico City,  the start of is a vibrant AI ecosystem was evident, with a number of emerging initiatives already across the Global South aiming to strengthen machine learning and artificial intelligence research and talent. A third regional workshop is planned for Asia in late 2019.  

For example, in Nairobi, sixty African and international experts at the workshop collaboratively shaped a new ambitious and pragmatic roadmap for the AI Network of Excellence in sub-Saharan Africa. The roadmap sets out a vision and the start of a new AI research and innovation agenda for development on how African countries can address existing imbalances and strengthen AI readiness – in government and policy spheres, in industry and applications, and in building emerging talent and skills.

What would happen if there are more than 30 African countries developing their own AI strategies in the next five years? Imagine if more than 400 PhDs in AI and machine learning from across Africa were innovating and engaging in shaping global conversations about how AI can be used to support human development. And what if universities, the private sector, and other public interest institutions invest a billion dollars in collaborations on AI to support the achievement of African Union’s development blueprint Agenda 2063? This would certainly be important steps to change the unequal picture presented in this year’s index.

AI’s profound potential for accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals can only happen if it is well managed by governments and like-minded actors. This year’s  Government AI Readiness Index highlights the need for more equal implementation to close AI’s potential to widen global inequalities. With committed local AI community actors and global partners like Sweden, IDRC is looking to support collaborative approaches with researchers, enterprises, start-ups, policymakers, and civil societies to close this gap and make Canada a global partner in advancing effective and responsible development of AI for a more inclusive and sustainable world.  

The Index and report are licensed under a CC-BY. Follow us on Twitter @ai4dev.

To download the Government AI Readiness Index 2019 Report, click here. 

 

 

 

 


The commentary article was written by Kai-Hsin Hung, Katie Clancy, and Fernando Perini. This commentary article is the extensive version of the original Perspectives article published on IDRC’s website.

The Government AI Readiness Index 2019 is produced by Oxford Insights with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). We would like to thank all the regional experts who contributed to this report.

A roadmap for artificial intelligence for development in Africa

Based on the workshop ” Toward a Network of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4D) in sub-Saharan Africa” – April 3-5, 2019 Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Artificial intelligence is poised to enhance productivity, innovation and help countries across sub-Saharan Africa to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – helping to improve outcomes from health care to agriculture to education. Yet as with any technology, the transformative potential benefits come with challenges that need to be managed and moderated. Though countries across sub-Saharan Africa are on this threshold of harnessing AI technologies to support genuine human development and bolster economic and political progress, there are likely to be ramifications on already precarious livelihoods, labour markets, and fragile governing institutions. Addressing these opportunities and challenges are key to the roadmap for AI for development.  

The AI Readiness Index 2018 (forthcoming)
The AI Readiness Index 2018 (forthcoming)

Infrastructural challenges, data gaps, highly skilled labour needs, and poor regulatory environments are still inhibiting people’s ability to harness AI across Africa. A global review of secondary data available on AI suggests that the continent needs to support better infrastructure and fill data gaps, and support education and capacity building to ensure there are enough highly skilled researchers able to implement AI solutions. Moreover, a critical dimension is the legal, ethical and human rights-based frameworks needed for countries to optimize the best uses of AI – frameworks that will protect citizens’ data and build trust and legitimacy for AI and the multitude of applications. These are still largely absent.

In the next five years, what would happen if we had more than 30 African countries developing their own AI policies and strategies? Imagine if there are more than 400 PhDs in AI and machine learning from across the continent? And what if universities, the private sector, and other public interest institutions invest a billion dollars in collaborations on AI to support the African sustainable development agenda?

These proposals are now emerging from the African AI community after the recent workshop in Nairobi on Artificial Intelligence for Development in Sub-Saharan Africa. The meeting gathered sixty African and international experts together to demonstrate and discuss how people across the continent are developing AI at a rapid pace. There is a vibrant AI ecosystem emerging across the continent with initiatives like Deep Learning Indaba, the African Institute for Mathematical Science (AIMS), Data Science Africa, and Women+ in Machine Learning and Data Science (WIMLDS) — all of which aim to strengthen machine learning and artificial intelligence in Africa.

To support the growing momentum in Africa’s emerging AI ecosystem, this emerging ‘network of excellence’ of machine learning and AI practitioners and researchers is building a collaborative roadmap for AI for Development in Africa. The three-day workshop focused in on three critical areas of 1) policy and regulations, 2) skills and capacity building and 3) the application of AI in Africa. The following slides and the analysis below synthesize the participatory discussions during the workshop on these three critical areas.  

Artificial Intelligence Network of Excellence in Sub-Saharan Africa – Nairobi Workshop 2019

Policy and regulations

“Thirty African countries should develop AI specific policies and strategies over the next five years”

Currently, out of the 46 sub-Saharan African states, only Kenya has an AI taskforce that is working towards a national strategy. There is a clear need to build policy capacity as well to help design AI regulatory frameworks fit for the African context. An area of convergence in this discussion was the need to channel investments toward prioritized solutions for development, but also the need to reflect and better understand what “development” means. The pan-African development blueprint – the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – could offer such a shared vision. Other ideas emerged during the workshop, including collaboration within the network to inform and grow AI-specific policies to at least 30 African countries over the next five years, and increasing the adoption of the AU’s Convention on Cyber Security and Personal Data Protection. There is also critical recognition that the copy-and-paste of made-in-the-North AI policy frameworks will not serve the needs of Africans. No one country has all the solutions. So while policy options and best practices from other parts of the worlds can provide great sources of inspiration and guidance, the priorities and directions must be determined locally in a way that facilitates innovation, curbs any harms and upholds human rights.

Skills and infrastructure

“Create a pipeline of 400 African PhDs in AI, data science, and other interdisciplinary fields.”

Building an inclusive AI future in Africa means we must build AI strength through community. Skills and capacity received a lot of attention during the three-day workshop. One of the participants at the workshop shared that there is a need to “better formalize AI training and the recruitment of AI talent in Africa” and to create a pipeline of 400 African PhDs in AI, data science, and other interdisciplinary fields over the next five years. This means having the appropriate infrastructure to build this capacity.

Furthermore, there is the need to enhance the strength and agility of educational systems to meet new digital opportunities, and support investments in learning outcomes in the areas of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data sciences in Africa. As one participant said, “Let’s think beyond PhDs. We should also target and invest in youth at the primary school level, offer mentorship programs for emerging leaders, including for women and girls to build the next generation of AI practitioners, and create opportunities to bring more of the public into the AI conversation.” Moving forward, inclusion must remain a core principle in guiding the design of responsive and equitable AI skills and capacity building roadmap in Africa.

The hope is that it will be possible to establish an AI Centre of Excellence in every African country by 2030 that will help incubate ideas and foster AI communities of practice in an interdisciplinary and inclusive matter.

Applications

“A collective investment of USD 1 billion dollars in collaborative innovation and research prioritizing solution areas for sustainable development in Africa.”

The application of AI must be connected to people and their needs on the ground, and the potential benefits of AI translated into real impact for people. The ground-up approach of this collaborative workshop was an excellent way to start drawing fresh ideas and practical use cases on how AI could help increase access to healthcare and education for the most vulnerable in rural areas, and improve the movement of people, goods, and ideas especially within and between rapidly growing megacities across Africa.

A key idea discussed among participants was how to mobilize collaboration among a network of African companies, universities, research centres, and public institutions to collaborate on advancing the AI research for development agenda. Participants suggested a collective investment of USD 1 billion dollars in collaborative innovation and research prioritizing solution areas for sustainable development in Africa. These partnerships could mean when Africans design and deploy AI applications, societal goals and human rights commitments like decent work conditions and gender equality are integrated into projects from the beginning.

Next steps

It is very clear from the diverse range of voices at the workshop that we cannot forget that within Africa’s emerging and vibrant AI ecosystem, the inclusion and diversity of voices from traditionally marginalized communities must be prioritized. And there is a need to expand the AI Network of Excellence conversation to Francophone and Portuguese-speaking countries on the continent as well. It is also critical to understand that contexts differ in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa and even more so in places where AI is still unknown, so strategies and engagement must be tailored to local situations.

The enriching and collaborative dialogue over the three days of the AI4D workshop has built a solid foundation for the research and innovation agenda in Africa. Progress on this agenda will depend on the collective action of many actors to hone and support this vision, and we will continue to engage with partners and stakeholders in shaping an inclusive AI ecosystem in Africa.  

See also:

 

We would like to thank all the participants who contributed their voices and ideas during this event. This three-day dialogue was organized by the International Development Research Centre, Swedish International Development Agency, Knowledge for All Foundation and the Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow us on Twitter at @AI4Dev

 

Naser Faruqui from IDRC discussing AI and its impact for development

Play video by Naser Faruqui, IDRC, at workshop “Toward a Network of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4D) in sub-Saharan Africa”, Nairobi, Kenya, April 2019

Naser in his work supports scientists and their innovations in developing countries to help solve their own problems. The confluence of bigdata, powerful computing and machine learning created a tipping point in powerful applications, and this can be transferred to development opportunities in the area of health, education and agriculture.

My bluesky is to ensure that Africans can fully contribute, participate and benefit from potential opportunities in AI

 

 

Tejumade Afonja form AI Saturdays Lagos on Artificial Intelligence and the importance of local communities

Play video by Tejumade Afonja, AI Saturdays Lagos, InstaDeep at workshop “Toward a Network of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4D) in sub-Saharan Africa”, Nairobi, Kenya, April 2019

Tejumade is among other things a community builder and very passionate about AI education. In the scope of AI Saturdays in Lagos she runs a Programme to democratize AI that goes through a curriculum for 16 consecutive Saturdays of teaching machine learning.

My bluesky project for AI in Africa is support other AI communities in other parts of Africa and the world. The other is to build an African food image dataset.

 

Launch of capacity building surveys in sub-Saharan Africa

The African Network of Excellence in AI has launched a survey and will deliver a report on capacity building in AI in education and in governemnts in SSA. The AI4D initiative will use information from this research to inform future programming addressing AI and work with Governemnts, Universities and other centres of higher education and training. Our objective is to assess and deepen our understanding of AI capacity and use in sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of developing a capacity building agenda. The survey will collect information about the state of AI activities and capacity building to support the development of AI4D.

Deep Learning Indaba releases 2nd edition report

Deep Learning Indaba
Deep Learning Indaba 2019 report

The Deep Learning Indaba is an organisation and a community whose mission is to Strengthen African Machine Learning. Today it has issued its second report Together We Build African Artificial Intelligence describing their strategy, vision and mission. This mission is currently executed using three principal programmes, which aim to build communities, create leadership, and recognise excellence in research and innovation across our continent .