Policymakers should fully unlock AI’s economic potential in Africa: South African minister

Policymakers should fully unlock AI’s economic potential in Africa: South African minister

Johannesburg, Nov 7 (PTI) Policymakers in Africa should consider fully unlocking AI’s economic potential for the continent, South African Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said in his address at the Artificial Intelligence Expo Africa that is being hosted here this week.

Speaking on the theme of ‘Building an AI-Powered Future for Africa’, Gungubele said AI has caught the attention of global and international actors in all spheres of engagement and collaboration.

“Governments (should take) a forward-thinking approach to adopting and deploying AI while ensuring that workers are equipped with a broad set of skills that enables them to adapt to an AI-driven economy and that downside risks are mitigated,” the minister said in a recent address, adding that AI has the potential to simultaneously create positive and negative situations.

Gungubele recalled how the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, Prof Klauss Schwabb, in his book titled “Shaping the future of 4IR”, refers to data as the “new oil.” “He (Schwabb) argues that just like oil, reckless and negligent use of data can be catastrophic. At every stage of human development there has always been a technology that impacts human lives in a fundamental way,” Gungubele said.

Asking for the use of AI as a meaningful developmental tool for digital skills and the ethical use of AI, Gangubele said, “Biases and discrimination in AI can result from the use of poor quality, flawed or inadequate data in models, or unintentionally through inference and proxies. This is a global matter that needs to be tackled head-on.” Gungubele said teachers needed to accept that AI is here to stay.

“ChatGPT is being used in sectors such as education and the legal fraternity. Now whilst teachers are against the use of ChatGPT by scholars, this is the future. We need to find ways of harnessing the power of data to improve learning and expand knowledge. However, we must also guard against its misuse and misinformation in distorting the power of the human brain,” he said.

“We must acknowledge that as we use generative AI, it must not absolve us on ethical responsibility as members of the digital society,” he cautioned.

Commenting on global regional AI partnerships that were being developed across the globe, Gungubele said they had their own advantages and disadvantages from their regional and continental perspectives but needed to become inclusive.

“The ethical dimensions on AI ranges in the different global bodies can be assessed to determine the most appropriate approach for us (in Africa),' he said.

“Governments themselves must also procure and use AI tools in a manner that demonstrates thought leadership in harnessing AI for inclusive economic growth,' he said. PTI FH NPK AKJ NPK NPK

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