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GeoTech Cues January 12, 2021

Technology for good

By Mathew Burrows and Julian Mueller-Kaler

By focusing on healthcare, food security and agriculture, education, or infrastructure, global AI competition could be given a very different spin, mitigating the rivalry aspect of politics. How modern technologies should be centered on serving those broader global interests was at the core of the discussions in the roundtable focused on Africa. Participants underlined that AI applications are not yet constrained by extensive legal systems, presenting many opportunities, but also raising challenges. The fact that African countries provide a good testing bed for AI applications is exactly the reason why governments need to be careful. If there’s no framework, digital infrastructure, or laws and regulations, it is an open playing field without security measures and necessary consumer protections.

Missing regulatory frameworks are already a challenge in Western countries, which highlights the fact that African states are experiencing even further difficulties with developing laws and regulations. Similar to the lessons learned from India, capacity building will be essential for the development of modern technologies and their potential application to developmental challenges. Across the continent, Africa will need to invest much more to educate tech practitioners for the dynamic environment and the future of broader AI usage. There is overall confidence, however, that African societies are well-positioned to leverage their strengths, taking into consideration favorable demographics and the fact that the consequences of the ongoing pandemic do not seem to be as devastating in Africa as they are elsewhere. 

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The GeoTech Center champions positive paths forward that societies can pursue to ensure new technologies and data empower people, prosperity, and peace.