Is Africa ready for Artificial Intelligence?

By Joseph
  Published 24 Oct 2012
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In a span of less than one year, iHub Robotics has so far arranged three successful robotics boot camps. What has stood out over time is the growing interest in the area on artificial intelligence (AI), with a number of our participants being beginners in robotics. What’s even more interesting is the creative and enthusiasm of the teams formed at the boot camps to meet, tweak and even sometimes surpass the expectations of the meet-up. Take for instance our participation in the NASA SpaceApps Challenge organised in collaboration with FabLab Nairobi where during which one of the participating teams won the “People’s Choice category”. This winning team went on to be incorporated by Access:energy in implementing the data mining system that they had developed. Thanks to the generous support of Ushahidi, iHub Robotics was able to host two boot camps from which the skill set level grew from developing autonomous robots to building robotic arms and weather measuring devices. These developments are encouraging in terms of nurturing a community of techies in Nairobi who are able to use their knowledge both in software and configuring hardware to developing homegrown solutions to African challenges.     As our database of participants continues to grow, we foresee a situation where companies will be able to consult and hire seasoned talent in creating intelligent systems for entrepreneurial, social and environmental projects. iHub Robotics believes in growing a culture of hardware techies who develop solutions for Africa by Africans and this way, recreate the success story of the iHub. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is simply adding intelligence to computation with the aim of mirroring physical and biological systems. AI explores the science of extending the capabilities on human-machine interactions and this way engineering innovative solutions. AI is the basis of most automated system in medical diagnostic system, large scale manufacturing, automatic car systems, music and even e-mail spam filtering. Robotics on the hand, deals with applying artificial intelligence to robots through the design, iHub Robotics among the few initiatives in the continent that is taking the next step in Artificial Intelligence in Africa. Notable initiatives around Africa are the C4DLab Chip Programming boot camps at the University of Nairobi as well as AI boot camps held at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre for Excellence in Africa held in Ghana. South Africa has also developed a keen interest in this field by setting up CAIR (Center of Artificial Intelligence and Research) dedicated to direct and applied research in artificial intelligence which could be the largest AI research center in Africa. With additional support, both financial and intellectual support from universities, Africa can well be on its way on developing intelligent systems that would revolutionize the way African conduct business, transport, agriculture and medicine. Initiatives like Maker Faire Africa that brings together creatives and tinkerers showcase how Africans are using technology to impact change in the continent.
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