AI in Africa: Tanzania’s Tryst with Technology and Tradition

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In 2021, DeepMind’s AlphaFold deciphered the structure of more than 200 million proteins. A feat mere man’s brain would take an eternity. AlphaFold has progressed to developing cures for neglected diseases affecting developing countries, developing novel malaria vaccines, and shedding light on Parkinson’s.

But that’s not even the pinnacle for AI in medicine; Activ Surgical’s Intelligent Light is designed to provide enhanced visualization and real-time, on-demand surgical insights in the operating room, Ottobock’s Myo Plus is a game-changer in robotic prosthetic control, and Medtronic’s GI GENIUS can detect polyps that lead to colorectal cancer.

In Art and design, the revolution is bare. It is nearly impossible to surf the internet without encountering an AI-generated art piece or deep fake. AI algorithms can analyze millions of images and learn patterns, styles, and artistic elements.

This allows them to create original artwork that can rival the works of renowned artists, be it music or designs. The extensive language model, CHAT-GPT, can process text and images, allowing users to generate prompts based on visual input. Canvas Magic Write can sketch a picture from words.

Filmmaking has never been easier. Not only can AI generate content, but it can also create digital clones of actors. In the latest Indiana Jones instalment, producers de-aged Harrison Ford using AI and voice capture for a flashback scene. Using DALL-E, Chad Nelson created a five-minute animation film, Critterz. He took less time, fewer crew members, and less money than he traditionally would.

Perhaps the quantum leap is in computing and coding. It is now possible to write more efficient and accurate code, identify errors in code more efficiently, and even build websites from scratch with no coding knowledge.

Using CHAT-GPT 4, users can turn an image into a fully functioning website. AI models learn, adjust to commands, and perform human tasks by accessing computers’ understanding. This good coding has automated factories with robots, brought about driverless cars, and predicted weather patterns correctly.

The whole point of AI is to mimic the problem-solving and decision-making capabilities of the human mind. Though it has not reached its full potential, it has succeeded. It displays intelligence, adaptability, and intentionality as humans do. What AI has done is not an opportunity to ignore. Think about how Tanzania would benefit.

  • Poverty identification: A method developed by Stanford engineers uses AI to examine readily available satellite imagery of African regions to estimate current poverty levels and development over time. The tool scans daytime and nighttime imagery and human infrastructure such as roads or housing. In this way, the government can know where to allocate more effort.
  • Health and medicine: During the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers in South Africa used AI to predict the first wave before it became widespread. The same can be applied to predict outbreaks of diseases such as Cholera in Tanzanian. The vast amount of medical data will also be used to build a framework for the nation’s immunity to know where and how the budget should be used. Take projects like Ada Health, which helps address Tanzania’s doctor-to-patient ratio.
  • The roll-out in this field is already underway. Weather and climate patterns can be easily predicted to ensure maximum yield. Machine learning projects such as Nuru use leave photos to diagnose yields.
  • With a lot of available data, financial analysis has been simplified. AI can be used to check the vulnerability of personnel like the Togo government used it to provide financial aid to 500,000 during the pandemic via Novissi. Or check the creditworthiness of borrowers by Fintechs such as Branch.

That is just the tip of what’s possible. AI can do much more. It means opportunity for us. But something sinister lies behind AI because computers are as good as those who program them.

Ignore the fear that one day it might gain consciousness and take over the world as Hollywood pushes; people develop AI. And people, as the world knows, have biases and are greedy. Most AI models are developed by capitalistic corporates that put profit over anything.

On July 21, 2023, major tech companies assured the White House they would regulate their models. These assurances are mostly hollow because these corporations have quotas to meet and shareholders to appease. The biggest downside AI brings is the replacement of humans in production and supply. Man will be reduced to market. It’s what is happening with Hollywood now.

On July 14, 2023, the American actors’ union SAG-AFTRA went on strike over an ongoing labour dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The actors grieve that major studios make tons in profits but refuse to compensate the artists. Also, studios want to make digital clones of artists they will use for future projects without paying artists.

At the time of the strike, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) was also on strike for poor compensation and the risk of AI models replacing them as content writers. Using AI will write off billions in expenses for studios, but it would also eliminate the artist and the writer.

This problem will also brace Tanzania. Automation will place robots and displace people. As per Goldman Sachs, 300 million jobs will be lost or diminished by AI.

Also, AI raises the question of privacy and consent. Vast data is fed into machines, hence the potential for data breaches and access to unauthorized personal information. Powerful models could be used to spy on people or even nations, posing national security threats.

Another is bias, and Most AI models are trained using data from Western countries. Data that is not African. This likely feeds stereotypes into the machine, keeping some old prejudices intact.

The government must intervene before Tanzania is reduced to a market, not a player. We need to be at the forefront of the fight to ensure AI will create jobs. It can, for starters,

  1. The government should invest in AI by providing grants to startups and incorporating the field into the curriculum. It should give gifts to startups such as Tanzania AI Lab so there’s Tanzanian data in machine learning.
  2. Strict privacy laws. New laws that prohibit firms from unlawfully seeding population data for machine learning should be drafted.
  3. Adopt job-creating AI first. The unemployment rate in Tanzania stands at 2.8 as of 2022. Allowing AI to replace writers, doctors, or drivers will throw the country into further unemployment.

AI regulation is a complex thing but needs to be done beforehand. It’s a dialogue we need to have now because if we don’t, CHAT-GPT will make millions for Microsoft at the expense of our youth.

You can also read Elon Musk Vs ChatGPT: A Disclaimed Encounter, It’s a War among AI Researchers.

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