Africa has an opportunity to compete globally within the realm of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – if it entrenches this into its academic curricula, develops skill and modernises its legacy systems. Contrary to the universal perception that AI will largely replace people in jobs, the reality is that in the short-term it will enhance people's existing roles in business and, in fact, create jobs.
This is according to executives from Gartner who addressed delegates at the 2018 Gartner Symposium ITXPO in Cape Town this week. They stressed augmented intelligence (humans and machines operating together) as the way forward and best approach for business to take in terms of AI integration and application.
User experience and AI focused Research Director Magnus Revang said the main trend today is to avoid the large projects (because many fail), but rather smaller more manageable ventures.
"Part of the return on investment is learning, realising that it takes time. So we're seeing a change there and we're seeing it in numbers as well. Forty-six percent of clients are planning and experimenting with AI, four percent is in production. This is asking CIOs typically. We also know a lot of AI project are outside of IT," said Revang.
A lot of conversations are about 'we've started, but how do we scale?' he added. "From an African point of view, it may follow the same sort of pattern from the rest of the world. So you start out thinking 'AI will solve all our problems'. Then you go through this 'hard learning', the thing is with AI, is that a lot of the applications are for automation. Contrary to previous waves, it is more automating tasks that people do than jobs that people do. That is a huge change, because it means that whenever I deploy anything with AI, it is only eighty or ninety percent sure. So I still need humans, but fewer of them."
In Africa Agritech is growing in value and there is more extensive application of AI to extract and use data on livestock, to analyse crops, share information etc.
There is an opportunity to extend this and develop the ecosystem, but that will depend on the continent developing competence, skills, and on governments establishing and making datasets available.
The 2018 Gartner consumer AI perceptions study, conducted online during January and February 2018 among 4,019 respondents in the US and the UK, revealed that 58% of respondents would use AI if it saved time by taking over certain tasks.
Moreover, 53% would use AI it helped save money.
Stephanie Baghdassarian, research director at Gartner, said, "AI is among the technologies that consumers consider using for tangible and more 'serious' benefits, as opposed to socialising, projecting self-image and having fun - three common reasons for using other personal technologies. We can think of AI being able to look for the best deal for a specific purchase, or find the best route to a particular destination, enabling to save money on toll payments and fuel."
47% of respondents would use AI if it gave them easier access to information, such as travel and transportation directions and details of their everyday consumption of goods.
CA Southern Africa has announced the company's participation in scientific research to discover how IOT applications can use a type of AI known as 'deep learning' to imitate human decisions.
According to a statement released by the company, the research will also explore how to prevent that AI-based decisions are not producing biased results.
This three-year research project is named ALOHA (adaptive and secure deep learning on heterogeneous architectures). It is funded by the European Union as part of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and co-ordinated by the University of Cagliari in Italy.
"The future of all technologies will include AI and deep learning in some way," says Otto Berkes, Chief Technology Officer, CA Technologies. "The expansion of complex, multi-layered IoT systems bring both security and software development challenges that AI and autonomous computing are uniquely positioned to address," he adds.
"ALOHA aims to better understand how applications running on IoT devices with growing computational power can learn from experience and react autonomously to what happens in a surrounding environment," says Victor Muntés, vice president of Strategic Research, CA Technologies. "We will bring our security expertise to avoid data poisoning risks that could lead to bias in AI-based decisions, while our agile expertise will help to efficiently embed the use of deep learning in the software development process."
Until now, deep learning AI algorithmic processing has largely been limited to expensive, high performance servers. ALOHA will study the use of these deep learning algorithms on small, low-power consumption devices such as video cameras, sensors and mobile devices. This will enable them to learn, recognise and classify images, videos, sounds and sequences quickly and with high precision.