AI Key to Kenya’s growth, development & democratisation- Says Microsoft

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AI has the potential to enhance productivity and growth by expanding opportunities in key sectors for Kenya and the wider continent according to a new whitepaper by microsoft.

The whitepaper published by Access Partnership, commissioned by Microsoft, entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence for Africa: An Opportunity for Growth, Development, and Democratisation’ shows that AI presents a crucial and important opportunity for the continent and if used well, can be a driver of growth, development, and democratisation.

AI could help African governments improve agriculture, healthcare, financial services, and government services. According to a recent study on the long-term economic impact of AI around the world, AI has the potential to double a country’s GDP growth rate by 2035. the report adds that the ability to harness even a fraction of this benefit would be a powerful tool for development and poverty reduction. This impact will be particularly strong in a few core sectors that are key for Africa, including agriculture, healthcare, public services, and financial services.

“Through providing workers, entrepreneurs, and organisations with access to high-quality digital tools, they will be empowered to compete at a global level and be at the forefront of economic transformation,” says Winnie Karanu, Business Development and Program Manager at Microsoft.

Some of Africa’s most pervasive problems where AI could be helpful include reducing poverty and improving education, delivering healthcare and eradicating diseases, addressing sustainability challenges — from meeting the growing demand for food in the fast-growing population to advancing inclusion in societies.

AI also democratises access to innovative and productivity-boosting technology to fuel the growth the continent needs. But just having AI doesn’t mean success.

“Success of implementation will depend on the ability of governments to foster collaboration among all stakeholders — state and civil society, academia, industry, and national and international stakeholders. If all parties embrace the challenges of AI, Kenya will reap the benefits of a vibrant AI ecosystem.” continues Karanu.

For starters, AI is a technology that enable machines to record data and use it to sense, comprehend, and act intelligently like humans. AI enables machines to sense their environment, think, and in some cases learn, to take action in response to the environment and the circumstances underpinning it. AI systems are finding ever-wider application across enterprises as they grow in sophistication.

Microsoft and several other technology giants believe that AI technologies have the potential to solve some of the most pressing challenges that impact Sub-Saharan Africa and drive growth and development. Some of the core sectors such as agriculture will be done more efficiently and effectively, raising yields. In healthcare, AI will improve healthcare delivery to a higher quality, and make it more accessible. AI could also help make public services more efficient and more responsive to citizens, enhancing impact.

Other areas include financial services, forward thinking policy-makers, education systems, broadband coverage and infrastructural development among others.

To make AI accessible to every individual and organisation, Microsoft, alongside Strathmore University and Access Partnership, have also launched its ‘AI for Good’ event series to help explore how the country can make optimum use of AI for the country’s good.

Ahmed El Essawi, Government Affairs Manager, Microsoft Middle East and Africa – who is managing the series of events at the Microsoft Policy Innovation Centres across the region said, “We are thrilled to be working with Strathmore and Access Partnership in creating awareness around the new frontier that AI will bring to Kenya. Showcasing Microsoft’s role as an ally for stakeholders within the Kenyan corporate sphere and ensuring its citizens can benefit from the full potential that AI technologies bring with it will only mean that ultimately, some of the region’s most pervasive problems will be addressed head on.”

Digital Transformation and AI are topics that need to be unpacked in a favourable space, bringing stakeholders, government officials and policy makers together for knowledge sharing. “Strathmore has always aimed to be at the forefront of issues that impact the country at large,” said Dr Isaac Rutenberg, Director for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law at Strathmore University.