A.I. Systems Should Be Shaped By The People They Affect – Guest Post for World Wide Web Foundation

Several months back, via the meetup.com page for the Nairobi Women in Machine Learning and Data Science community, we received the following message;

To whom it may concern,
The Web Foundation is carrying out a leg of the research for Berkman’s AI Compass project, and I am working together with a colleague to arrange interviews with key stakeholders in Kenya.

We are looking for stakeholders from government, academia, industry, and civil society that are working around artificial intelligence. The final output will be a report to be shared publicly that will draw on these discussion and contribute to increased awareness, a more informed public debate, and ultimately better policy-making on the emerging applications of AI.

In particular we wish to learn about:
Stakeholders’ understanding of AI and who the key local actors
Stakeholders’ thoughts on the current socio-economic impacts of AI
Future potential opportunities and challenges of AI

Would you have any leads

All the best and thanks in advance.

Honestly, this felt like a big ask to all of us, we are just a bunch of people who run a monthly meetup. So for a week or two the message went unanswered and was soon forgotten.
* for shame Kathleen, for shame! *

Several weeks later, I received a more personalized request on the same via email courtesy of a colleague who had already been interviewed by the World Wide Web Foundation…

We will be talking to key stakeholders in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria. This will include experts in the government, academia, industry, and civil society. The final output will be a report to be shared publicly that will draw on these discussions and contribute to increased awareness, a more informed public debate, and ultimately better policy-making on the emerging applications of AI. 

Given your background in data science and AI at Africa’s Talking and current position in industry, we believe that talking to you will further this goal. Would you be available for an interview to discuss this issue in more detail? In particular we wish to learn about:
  • Your understanding of AI and who the main actors are in your country
  • Your thoughts on the current socio-economic impacts of AI
  • Future potential opportunities and challenges of AI in your country

This time there was no escaping things so I went ahead and did the interview.

Once that was done, they invited me to author a blog post for their blog and the result was some of my views on AI in low and middle-income countries.

Full blog post HERE.

Moral of the story, you ask? Sometimes the things you run from lead to interesting places.

Happy Reading!

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