Kenya ranked fifth in Africa on AI readiness


As AI steers on its evolutionary path its impact on professions is evident and unsettling for many. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Kenya has been ranked fifth in Africa on the government’s readiness to implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the delivery of services to the public, a new global survey shows.

The 2022 edition of the annual Government AI Readiness Index released by Oxford Insights shows Kenya’s overall score of 40.36 percent placing it behind Egypt, South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco.

Globally, Kenya was ranked position 90 as countries prepare the ground for disruption expected from the new technology.

On the technology sector pillar that examines the availability of requisite skills to enable AI adoption, the country posted a dismal score of 28.76 percent which is below the world average of 35.17 percent.

The report comes at a time AI is gaining traction globally.

Analysts say that if the correct set of skill base was developed in Kenya, the technology would come in handy in areas such as boosting education outcomes through personalised learning, disease control and weather forecasting.

“AI might be the medicine the continent needs to root out problems and inconsistencies in education. Indeed, the fact that African languages were suppressed in favour of European languages as a strategy to separate thought and speech, Africa now has the opportunity to begin the process of decolonizing education,” observes Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium Bitange Ndemo.

Over the last decade, Kenya’s total value of investment in AI is estimated at Sh13 billion which hardly compares with South Africa’s Sh165.8 billion and Nigeria’s 60.3 billion, according to Microsoft’s Artificial Intelligence in the Middle East and Africa Outlook report.

According to ICT experts, data and tech skills, more than all other factors, are key to the development of AI in the country and take-off will only be effected if the two are sorted out.

“Data is the engine of AI since AI creates algorithms for predictions mainly based on historical data. If that’s missing, the power and impact of AI will be suboptimal, or worse still, have a negative impact,” notes John Walubengo, an ICT lecturer at the Multimedia University of Kenya.

Mr Walubengo sat as a member of the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Task Force that was constituted in February 2018 to provide the government with recommendations on how to harness emerging technologies over the consequent five years.

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