the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s recommendations were mentioned, I published an article on the first recommendation, which was to build human capacity for the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The second recommendation is to establish a national AI institute, which should be a collaboration between the public and private sectors, because there is more capacity in the private sector than in the public sector. AI has three aspects, and this institute must make choices on where it will invest its efforts. The first aspect is the theory of AI. Here we mean the thorough study of AI, its architecture and the associated mathematics. This naturally includes the development of new AI methods. The second aspect is the algorithmic part, which provides for coding. Fortunately, many companies such as Google and Microsoft have developed AI codes that they provide for “free”. (Of course, nothing comes free; the Chinese company Huawei realised that the “free” Android software from Google was no longer “free” when the interests of the United States and China clashed.) The third aspect is the application of AI. There are multiplicities of sectors and industries that we can apply AI to, such as manufacturing, agriculture, medicine and retail. The AI Institute will have to choose what areas of the economy it should invest in to put the South African economy at a competitive advantage. It should simultaneously co-create solutions with the rest of Africa. The AI Institute should pay more attention to applications as well as the creations of AI solutions and apps, rather than only the theoretical aspects of AI. Of course, to create apps and solutions, one should be able to code. The AI Institute should develop competencies in the area of integrating different software with different data sources to solve socioeconomic problems. A board or structures that have a fair representation
of AI experts, people from the public and private sectors and from society, should govern the AI Institute. It should have visiting experts from global centres of excellence such as Silicon Valley in the US, Zhongguancun in China and Cambridge in the United Kingdom. It should work seamlessly with other similar initiatives such as the Absa Chair of Data Science at the University of Pretoria as well as the Institute of Intelligent Systems at the University of Johannesburg. Furthermore, this AI Institute should work with the Deep Learning Indaba, which is developing AI expertise in Africa and is working in 33 African countries. Incidentally, my former students head both the Deep Learning Indaba and the Absa Chair of Data Science. Separately, it should also work with initiatives such as Google Digital Skills for Africa and the data science community called Zindi. Africa’s 1.3 billion people, increasing to 2 billion by the middle of this century, present a huge opportunity. President Cyril Ramaphosa, when he took
over as the chair of the African Union, recognised the centrality of AI for Africa’s economic growth. In consultation with the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, he announced the formation of the Africa AI Forum. This forum should exploit the emergence of AI opportunities in Africa. These opportunities have led to Google establishing the Africa AI Lab in Ghana and Microsoft AI Lab in Kenya. The institute should facilitate the expansion of AI expertise in Africa by drawing from the local population and international expertise. It should use strategic partnerships in bodies such as the AU, the Southern Africa Development Community, the East African Community, the Economic Community of West African States, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the US and the European Union to facilitate the movement of people, expertise, skills and technology. The views expressed in this article are that of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg.
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