The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Facebook have given a nod to eight awardees from across the continent whose proposals focus in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), ethics and human rights.
Early this year the two organisations issued a request for proposals for a research in the identified fields with a view to responding to “the complex questions related to ethics and to social impact which have arisen from the growing reliance on artificial intelligence systems in Africa”.
The awardee will share among themselves a total commitment from Facebook of US$ 200, 000. The HSRC, as the premier science council, will co-ordinate the research of the awardees and provide technical expertise in understanding the social implications of change and development in Africa.
To ensure representativity, the awardees were picked from eight different countries in Africa, making this a truly continental initiative. The expectation is that the work of the research teams will stand the continent in good stead to understand the implications of AI as well as ways in which to leverage this for socio-economic development and to be able to better understand the risks and challenges which can be mitigated against.
The proposals were reviewed by seven-person advisory board comprising: Dr Noberto Andrade, Facebook; Dr Buhle Khanyile, HSRC; Titi Akinsanmi, Google; Dr Ololade Shyllon, Facebook; Wairagala Wakabi, CIPESA; Professor Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem, University of Pretoria; and Dr Rachel Adams, HSRC.
The awardees are:
Elefelious Getachew Belay (Ethiopia): Socio-technical considerations for the design and development of AI in Africa. On receiving the outcome of his proposal, Belay said that “This award accords a great deal of enthusiasm to my enduring desire to explore more and achieve more in my research career.”
Radha Upadhyaya (Kenya): The Ethics and Social Impact of Automated Mobile Credit Lending in Kenya. Upadhyaya and her team reacted thus: “We’re really excited to use this funding to investigate how best to promote transparency and responsibility with the mobile credit lending sector of Kenya, a topic that will expand the research and work we are doing across our varied fields: development economics, history/anthropology, and technology and the law. This research is especially timely in light of growing calls for greater regulation of automated risk assessment and credit lending in Kenya.”
Thompson Chengeta (Zimbabwe): Re-examining the jus ad bellum – jus in bello dichotomy from an African freedom ethics perspective: Towards a comprehensive response to autonomous weapon systems. Chengeta said: “I am extremely pleased to receive this research award. The grant will make it possible to increase African scholarship on one of the critical topics on AI and human rights. Given the international community’s current goal of inclusion and diversity in framing AI governing frameworks, this grant is very timely in my efforts to contribute towards that goal.”
Samah Elsayed (Egypt) The Cairo Charter: Urban AI in Africa for Social & Environmental Justice. Elsayed and her team commented that: “The Cairo Charter will formulate a framework for advancing justice-driven AI in smart city planning and development in Cairo, across the African continent, and beyond. We are looking forward to developing a series of principles and protocols for Urban AI in Cairo that focus on applications for ecological and social justice”.
Pross Oluka Nagitta (Uganda): Buying Ethical AI solutions for government: Why is ethical awareness in public procurement important in the deployment of ethical AI solutions in Uganda & Kenya? Responding to the outcome Nagitta said: “This funding is an important breakthrough for us to recast the public procurement research agenda towards the social impact agenda. We believe that taxpayer resources must address the aspects that affect the poorest and the most vulnerable in the populations.”
Tom Peter Migua Ogada (Kenya): “Artificial Intelligence or Jobs: Which way forward for Africa.” For Tom and his colleagues, “this award will enable the African Centre for Technology in Kenya to jumpstart policy research and development in artificial intelligence to effectively contribute to policy discussion on social-economic and ethical considerations of large-scale deployment of AI in Africa.”
Adekemi Omotubora (Nigeria): What Value is in the Code? Human Rights by Design in AI Governance. Omotubora said this “is a huge boost for our research into human rights-driven AI designs and will help us to further understand how health technologies promote equality and inclusiveness in society.”
Donrich Thaldar (South Africa): Artificial intelligence in healthcare in South Africa. For Thaldar and his team remarked: “AI has the potential to improve healthcare, but also entails some ethical and legal concerns. With this grant my research group and I will develop practical, solution-driven recommendations that can be implemented within a South African context.”
Dr Rachel Adams of the HSRC said: “AI is having, and set to have, huge impacts on the African region. We are delighted to be supporting such important interdisciplinary work that will generate new knowledge around what AI means for human rights and ethics in our African context”.
Those interested to know more about the initiative can visit the HSRC’s website: