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 the workshop “Toward a Network of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4D) in sub-Saharan Africa”, Nairobi, Kenya, April 2019

What are you working on at the moment?

My name is Tejumade Afonja and I am from Nigeria. I work at Instadeep and study as an AI software engineer. Instadeep is an AI startup building AI for enterprise. As a community builder, I co-organized and co-founded AI Saturday Lagos. We are planning to democratize Artificial Intelligence for Africa, but certainly Nigeria, Lagos. What we do there, is that we go to the curriculum for sixteen consecutive Saturdays, each of the sixteen Saturdays entails as one cohort. For a year we do two cohorts.

An example of what we do at the Saturdays is that we go to a course on introduction to machine learning by Andrew Ng or computer vision by Stanford introduction to computer vision. We have both beginners and intermediate classes. Strictly speaking from what my interest is and that is education, I am very passionate about AI education in Africa. I think that the AI agenda could, there is a lot of talent, Africa talent. But the truth is that we need to be this talent our self. I do believe that maybe through a very strict curriculum, that we are able to train people and able to democratize AI and ship it to the world, use it in Africa.

What would be your blue sky project in Africa?

Two! One is what I currently do, I consider that as a project, and I take very much pride in it. I would like to extend that, meaning that not just Lagos, getting the right fund in to be able to support all other community areas where AI is in other parts of the world. I see the way they are trying to build communities like ours, funding is a very, very big struggle. I could be able to do something about that, by getting funding, we are able to decentralize this fund to people that need it and able to build out an educational structure from these communities.

The second one would be Childnet, it’s a project we started working on AI Saturday Legos. The idea is that we want to build African AI, image, dataset, support image datasets. We started that and we’ve been very slow at building it because of the capacity, you need to take pictures of food, and there needs to be some structure. I truly believe that this kind of projects could shape a lot of things, because you truly understand people sometimes by the way they eat, because of the cultural linkage to food.

Now I am in Kenya, imagine that I go there and take a picture of the food and I am able to understand what the food is. A lot of time, I know a lot of people come, and you don’t know what you’re eating basically when you go to a new place, you’re like “okay this is so and so”, but what does it entail. We were thinking that for research projects, especially in Africa, Africa is so beautiful, we have a lot of beautiful food and research has shown that we have most interesting delicacies, so why not showcase these delicacies. We need to collect data, that would be another thing I would work on.