This proposal has been prepared to contribute to the project Network of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) within the AI for Development Programme. The Network project, funded by IDRC, aims to strengthen and develop community scientific and technological excellence in a range of AI-related issue areas. This proposal sets out the component of work which will deliver a survey and report on capacity building in AI in education in SSA and is aligned with objective 3 of the Network proposal to assess current capacities in AI.

The Network project plans to use information from this research to inform future programming addressing AI and work with 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. This will be done through desktop research to inform the development of a digital survey questionnaire which, after careful review by consortium members, will be sent out to the SSA universities and other relevant centres of higher education and training. The survey will collect information about the state of AI activities and capacity building to support the development of AI4D.

Information collected will include what centres of higher education and training are teaching about AI and to what kind of students. Identifying research centres or units focused on AI research and development will also be included as a basis for supporting the network to deepen and develop existing AI expertise in the region, and to use this as a basis for further capacity building. The findings will be used to inform the network’s capacity building and research agenda.

This project’s overall objective is to develop a capacity building agenda for the AI4D programme within the Network of Excellence in AI in sub-Saharan Africa, that contributes to sustainable development through the responsible and inclusive design and deployment of AI. Specifically, the project will:

  1. Conduct desktop research on the current situation of AI, with a focus on capacity building as far as possible, in SSA.
  2. Develop an AI research instrument for centres of higher education and training in sub-Saharan Africa;
  3. Assess and deepen our understanding of AI capacity and use in sub-Saharan Africa with the aim of developing a capacity building agenda;
  4. Contribute to the research agenda in AI and development for sub-Saharan Africa;
  5. Present evidence to make informed decisions on future programme investments.

The major outputs expected from the research include the following:

  • Output 1: Design of survey instrument: The aim is to create an instrument whose results will provide quality, accurate and actionable information to make sound decisions.
  • Output 2: Release and feedback on survey instruments: The survey instrument will be shared in two phases, (i) in an internal review with the Strategic Advisory Board, (ii) in an external review with participants at the three-day workshop with AI experts, ethicists, policy makers and other stakeholders from across sub-Saharan Africa, and (iii) in an expert’s review with academics and machine learning specialists within the Network project.
  • Output 3: Assessment of academic capacity to engage in A: Multi-stage survey of academic institutions from around the continent.
  •  Output 4: State of capacity report: The results of the survey will be compiled into a report on the future options for capacity building in AI in Africa. This will be peer reviewed, edited and published.