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Artificial intelligence: Africa wants to catch up - RFI


The World Conference on Artificial Intelligence is being held from 29 to 31 August in Shanghai. If the main advances in the field come from

By David PaugetPosted on 29-08-2019Modified on 29-08-2019 at 07:49

The World Conference on Artificial Intelligence is being held from 29 to 31 August in Shanghai. If the main advances in the field come from the United States, China and Europe, the African continent no longer wants to lag behind and also intends to embrace the fourth industrial revolution.

All over the world, artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining popularity. Yesterday's science fiction has become the reality of today with machines capable of performing tasks that humans perform, such as this robot presenting the newspaper on Chinese television. But while the United States, China and Europe have taken a lead in the field, Africa is still lagging behind.

Last December, Unesco also organized the first forum in Africa devoted to artificial intelligence, at the Polytechnic University of Benguerir in Morocco. The objective was to develop a reflection with and by African actors to make artificial intelligence a lever for development on the continent.

Applications in agriculture, health ...

According to a study by Deloitte's firm in 2018, Africa will have 660 million Africans connected via a smartphone in 2020, double the number in 2016 (336 million). That means more data to collect, allowing the AI ​​to occupy a more important place: " Africa is late but there is a strong dynamic, with many start-ups. There is a real challenge in the field of health, to facilitate access to care. In Kenya for example, there is a start-up that, thanks to AI, can detect skin cancer using photos taken on smartphone, "says Karim Koundi, partner with Deloitte Francophone Africa, responsible for TMT activities (technologies, media and telecommunications).

►To listen too: Africa facing artificial intelligence

In addition to health, other areas use this technology: " In the field of agriculture, there are also applications using AI to optimize the amount of water. It is also present in the energy sector. Solar is the main energy that will develop in Africa over the next few years and there are many applications using AI that are emerging . "

Facebook is also there. With the help of researchers from the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) of the University of Colombia, the company notably mapped the density of the African population last April. High precision work thanks to algorithms that screened more than 11 billion images. These data can be valuable to humanitarian organizations, such as natural disasters.

The new map accounts for nearly all of Africa's 1.3 billion people and their locations down to the meter.

"Facebook is using AI to map exactly where Africa's fast-growing population lives" -

Erik Hersman (@whiteafrican) April 11, 2019

A promising market for digital giants

Because if local and independent initiatives exist, the development of AI in Africa will pass through the GAFA, with considerable resources. For the digital giants, the African continent is a huge market. On April 13, Google's AI Center opened in Accra , Ghana. A first in Africa for the Mountain View firm that has other centers dedicated to AI in the world (North America, Europe, Asia, Israel). Thanks to the AI, Google hopes, among other things, to improve its means of translation, as African languages ​​are poorly represented on Translate, its machine translation service. AI could then be a means to facilitate access to information between the countries of the continent.

In order to develop new projects based on AI, Africa must necessarily be able to take advantage of big data . In March, Microsoft opened two data centers in South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg). IBM had already opened its first cloud data center in Africa in 2016. Amazon also plans to open one in the country, by 2020. These data centers are essential because they reduce the distances that must travel data.

" The continent is more and more connected, it's a huge market for GAFA in terms of consumption. Moving to Africa allows them to develop their own ecosystem, and develop applications and content specific to African needs, "says Karim Koundi.

" The interest for them is also to get their hands on these new types of application, there is a leak of value. But they are careful, in return, they open an ecosystem and allow local developers to develop their apps, skills. The key point is to boost the innovation system, develop skills. Governments need to invest in this area , "he adds.

" We have an interest in investing in research to explore new applications related to artificial intelligence [...] We will try to reduce the digital divide so that everyone can benefit at the same level from the fallout of artificial intelligence In February, Chérif Diallo, director of information and communication technologies at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Telecommunications in Senegal, told UNESCO's work on AI. .

New AI training on the continent

If a large proportion of African RN students go abroad to train, new courses begin to emerge on the continent. Last October, the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (Aims) of Kigali launched a master's degree in artificial intelligence on its campus in the Rwandan capital. The founder and director of the program is none other than Senegalese professor Moustapha Cisse , director of the Google AI Center in Ghana. The training is conducted in partnership with Facebook and Google, and an extension of the program in other African countries is planned.

"The African Masters of Machine Intelligence (AMMI) is bringing AIMS to new heights and we are so excited for the first time on the #African soil, this is happening", @ThierryZomahoun, President and CEO, @AIMS_Next at the # AMMILaunch

African Institute for Mathematical Sciences - AIMS (@AIMS_Next) October 23, 2018

Starting next September, a school of artificial intelligence will also open in Morocco: the Euromed School of Digital Engineering and Artificial Intelligence (EIDIA), a new pole of the Euromed University of Fes (UEMF).

This school, which wants to be " the first of its kind in Morocco and Africa ", will offer courses in robotics, big data, cyber security ... The engineering degree will be validated in five years. A cooperation agreement was signed on July 12 with the prestigious Ecole Poytechnique (l'X) in France, which will contribute to the development of EIDIA.

►To read also: Internet: Africa's 10 most connected countries

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    Source: rfi

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