Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is a type of AI that can generate new content such as text, photos, music, and a lot more. Although it is still in its early phases, it has the potential to transform numerous industries, including economies. Our guest article written by Victoria Nxumalo - Founder of Girls in Stem, will focus on Africa and how generative AI can catapult different sectors of the economy to greater heights if harnessed and leveraged to its greatest potential.
Generative AI: Technology Making A Difference
Exploring the use of generative AI and its ability to make a substantial economic impact, it is evident that it could be used to play a role in the creation of new jobs, increased productivity, and increased innovation. To put the latter into perspective, a culture of innovation across the African continent has been spurred on by the use of AI and other Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as Cloud Computing, the Internet of Things, Big Data as well as Augmented and Virtual Reality.
Generative AI, for instance, opens up a wide variety of avenues that have proven to be essential to:
● Create new business marketing materials.
● Create current and relevant educational materials for students.
● Create new products and encourage diversification of product lines for manufacturers to sell.
● Create new business software enabling the automation of repetitive tasks as well as the increased adoption of automation programs in industry.
● Stimulate and accelerate research in critical areas such as health, climate and renewable energy and agriculture.
Poverty, unemployment, and inequality are just a few of the economic issues that the African, and, to a certain extent, in a global context, almost all economies, are dealing with. Generative AI, has been used to curtail the challenges mentioned and turbo charge the adoption of interventions that have:
● Influenced the creation of new jobs that did not previously exist in the IT sector.
● Contributed to enhancing and improving the productivity of farmers' output and crop and livestock yields
● Developed new methods of supplying food and water reducing health challenges associated with lack of access to clean water and healthy food
● Aided in making educational possibilities available to people living in remote areas and contributed to bridging the digital divide.
AI & Ethics
Naturally, there are some ethical issues to consider, particularly when it involves generative AI. For instance, it has to be vital to guarantee that generative AI is utilized in an equitable and impartial way. It is also critical to be aware of the potential for generative AI to be used to generate detrimental information, such as disinformation and deception.
In general, generative AI is likely to be an effective tool for African economic development. Nevertheless, before employing this technology, it is essential to be cognizant of the potential risk factors and concerns regarding ethics. Acknowledgement of these issues will no doubt ultimately influence policymakers and regulatory authorities to regulate the use of AI to encourage its use, while discouraging its abuse. Exploring the ethical considerations of AI involves considering these aspects:
Equality and fairness: It is essential to ensure that generative AI is used in an equitable and just way. This means it should not be utilized to discriminate against, perpetuate biases, or disfavour any particular group of individuals.
Privacy: Generative AI is often used to generate realistic and intricate photographs of individuals. This raises privacy and confidentiality concerns, as well as the prospect that this technology will be exploited to generate counterfeits or various kinds of identity theft.
Intellectual Property Rights: Generative AI has the potential to generate new content such as text, visuals, and audio. This raises fears about intellectual property rights and the likelihood that this technology could potentially be used to infringe on others' copyrights and trademarks.
Accountability: Keeping AI-powered technologies for learning, as an illustration, accountable for how they behave can be complex. If an AI-powered tool causes harm to a student, it could prove challenging to identify who is responsible for it. This may result in not only a legal quagmire, but also students experiencing harm without anyone being held liable.
Generative AI: What Can We Expect?
Having flipped both sides of the coin, it is evident that as AI continues to make advancements in its operations, it is imperative that African societies continue to amass knowledge about the potential of AI and leverage it in a sector specific way to achieve exponential growth in their economies.
It is both very exciting and enlightening to realize the positive impact that AI is having on innovation across the African continent. In Zimbabwe, in particular, innovators have started to develop various AI powered tools to perform different functions in society, from chatbots to AI assistants that are allowing Zimbabweans an alternative to ChatGPT, which is currently not accessible in the country. Examples include zivai.app and danai.chat.
Capitalizing on these platforms, coupled with the rapid increase in startups using cutting edge technology as the AI space continues to become competitive, can only propel African economies to greater heights. Embracing AI while ensuring that it benefits both the workforce that drives the economies and society as a whole, could see the continent reap the benefits of disruptive technology. Nonetheless, the journey continues as adequate preparation, research, planning and massive investments in upskill and reskill training programs must become an integral part of Africa’s success story.
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Article by Victoria Nxumalo
Victoria is an Information Technology professional and AI enthusiast for close to 15 years working in the Technology space where her work involves Social and Business Entrepreneurship and Women in Tech training and advocacy work.