Guest Post by Tevin Gitonga

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the effort to create computers capable of intelligent behavior. It can be classified into two types of AI  “narrow AI”-computer systems that are better than humans in some specific, well-defined field, and “general AI,” systems that can surpass human capabilities in many domains. AI relies on large amounts of data to learn, create patterns that it uses to  perform the actions it is tasked to do. The world is currently experiencing its fourth industrial revolution popularly referred to as Digital Transformation and AI is earmarked as being at the heart of this new era.

Fourth Industrial Revolution: AI

One of AI’s most disruptive features is the automation of tasks that for years have been performed by humans. Mckinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2030 automation, a direct result of AI, will have led to the loss of us many as 30% of the world’s job market. It will displace as many as 350 million jobs and may force as many as 200 million people to change their jobs completely. Such reports highlight the obvious concerns regarding AI. However, it must be noted that such fears are common at the advent of such major shifts to the then status quo. History has repeatedly showed that whilst such disquiet is understandable they are largely unwarranted. A case in point is the rollout of ATMs in the US

Major technological advancements have always resulted in some specific jobs becoming redundant; however, in the process of restructuring the process of production and/or delivery of services, the net job creation has outweighed thelosses.Further, with the freeing up of time in jobs that were initially mundane and are now being carried out by automated machinery and increasingly by AI backed apparatus theoretically people have greater opportunity to pursue careers that are more satisfying and give them a greater sense of meaning and wellbeing. It must also be noted that beyond job creation there are other benefits of AI and automation theseincludes; creating efficiency, boost productivity, reduce costs and improve the quality and range of products that companies can produce in the various sectors that AI is being deployed. Moreover, such technologies improve productivity for those sectors thus yielding greater economic results.

Aligning the present with the Future 

Capacity and skill will be perhaps the biggest contributor in ensuring that there are employment opportunities for the employee of the digital age. In order to develop this capacity and skill, there is a need for an overhaul of the education systems. The current education systems are catered for the second and third industrial revolution and involve reading, writing and arithmetic which targeted the creation of regimented factory workers whose jobs are now at risk due to ever more sophisticated automation and AI. There is need for a dynamic system that teaches how to learn. How to be creative, and the nuances of technology. This may be through our greater understanding of human psychology and being able to understand nuances such as judgment that are not easily created by AI if at all. Education that understands what value add of human experience the market needs and ensuring that they are equipping the students with the tools needed. 

In addition, Lawrence Lessig argues that in order to come up with well-reasoned decisions for society, in relation to technology, there are four factors that should be considered legal frameworks, social norms, the market and nature.  This can only be done when various stakeholders in the technology sectors and others that make up a robust multidisciplinary quality come together.

Multi stakeholders will be able to share their various insights on how to best govern AI and ensure that it is being augmented and does not replace the workforce or cause unnecessary harms. It will also assist in gaining greater awareness of the kind of AI developments that are sensitive to various needs Further, it will assist in coming up with employment laws that safeguard employment and create employment opportunities.

African Perspective 

Africa happens to be in a unique position when it comes to AI and digital transformation as a whole. Since most of the African countries are developing nations, they have a chance of building their societies to be in line with the fourth industrial revolution. This is compared to the already developed countries that have already established systems for example in education that may take more time to align with the developing trends. African countries have the opportunity to change their education systems and tailor them to focus on building competencies and human relational skills that differentiate us from machines but at the same time is in line with digital transformation.   This can help towards keeping African nations relevant in these dynamic times, and satisfy important social indexes such as the creation of meaningful employment opportunities. For example in Kenya a company by the name Samasource hires and trains  young people from Kibera Slums on how to create the Data that is used by big technology Companies to develop their AI systems.

In addition, considering that most African countries have little to no regulations in regard to Digital Transformation and particularly on matters around AI. They have a chance at formulating laws that ensure that AI brings positive impact to the citizens of Africa. Countries like Kenya, have already formed task forces which will look into emerging technologies such as AI and data protection;how best they can be regulated and used to benefit the citizens of their country. These regulations would ensure that AI use in Africa is one that leads to the economic developments of African nations. 

Conclusion 

As digital disruptions continue to occur, economic opportunities and growth in the future will belong to those willing to adapt to the changes that are already here and are only picking up pace.