Listen : Audio version of this article
Artificial intelligence is becoming a subject to more and more interest worldwide. When you hear about this technology, the first thing that comes to your mind probably is a human-scale robot that acts and looks like an average person. However, the truth is that artificial intelligence is already being used within a whole variety of software programs. They answer our messages on different platforms, guess our interests and even measure our credit scores.
Machine learning, the science that researches what stands behind the calculations and algorithms used by the artificial intelligence technology. People in this field make crucial contributions to making the technological future of tomorrow a reality. Their work improves our everyday lives by making the services we use on a daily basis better, more efficient and relevant.
One of the good examples of technological advancement is the gambling industry. The use of technology in this field is quickly increasing. For South Africa casino real money opportunities now lay in online gambling services, as well as artificial intelligence use on-site at physical casinos. It helps them make different estimates as accurate as possible while being time and cost-efficient.
Usually, countries and cities in western Europe and the United States are considered centers of machine learning and innovation in this field. Major cities like London, New York, Shanghai and Tokyo are leading the way when it comes to research concerning artificial intelligence. However, more and more new corners of earth discover the abilities and benefits of having a well-developed machine learning science industry. One such place is the African continent.
Machine learning in Africa: can it become a mainstream reality?
It is widely considered that artificial intelligence and more generally modern technologies can only gain momentum in well-developed economies. Such stereotypes are mainly caused by the limited access to particular means of technology in some less prosperous nations. This is partly true, but more and more countries are starting to realize that investing in needed infrastructure and allowing more people to use digital technologies can benefit the economy.
Moreover, making some services and products physically accessible in every corner of some densely populated underdeveloped nations can be much more expensive than making the best use of modern technology. For example, a commercial bank would have to invest a lot more money to build physical branches all across Kenya. Access to financial services is crucial for the nation’s development. It helps people consume more, increasing overall spending and boosting economic development. However, without any proper infrastructure, in such places, where social mobility is rather low, utilizing this potential is difficult. That is why more and more banking services are becoming available online across the continent and artificial intelligence, as well as the African machine learning industry, play a major role in making it all work.
The recent developments show, that the use of fintech and other digital platforms is soaring in countries where physical services are less accessible. India has one of the highest numbers of people that use digital services for payments. Surprisingly, Kenya is a leader as well. Its neobanks are revolutionizing the way Kenyans pay and receive services. The absolute majority of people in the country use mobile banking services to perform financial transactions. These facts just highlight how the country’s economic development does not affect the successful utilization of the abilities of modern technologies.
The machine learning scene has been gradually growing throughout the last decade. More people are interested in it and an increasing number of companies find artificial intelligence services useful for their future development. In 2013, a group of local researches started the annual workshop forum “Data Science Africa”. It aims to share ideas, innovation and news within the field among participants. Later, another group formed an important organization called “Deep Learning Indaba”. It aims to raise awareness about machine learning and artificial intelligence across the continent. It already is present in 24 African nations. Along with independent initiatives in the field, more and more educational institutions offer degree courses to young people in African countries. Particularly, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa are leading the way.
A major shift for Africa was the opening of the International Business Machines corporation’s (IBM) research center in 2013. The first hub was launched in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and helped the continent appear on the global map. In 2016, it added another one in Johannesburg, South Africa, expanding its network in the region. Now it has more research centers and offers a variety of services. Google also has its artificial intelligence lab on the continent in Accra, Ghana. Such facilities play a significant role in shaping the future of machine learning in Africa.
The community is also growing with new research facilities in operation. Moreover, better access to education in this field provides the market with young, well-determined innovative thinkers. In response to the booming sector, an increasing number of internationally recognized conferences and community gatherings take place in Africa. One of the most influential conferences about artificial intelligence, “International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR)” will take place in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa this April.
Does machine learning have a bright future on the African continent?
African nations are some of the fastest developing in the world. Besides their pace of economic growth, governments are doing everything to adapt their countries to the technological future of tomorrow. With important facilities by Google and IBM opening to the public in Africa, the hope for the research scene on the continent is high. It is expected that further global corporations will be present in Africa within the nearest future. However, to make the most out of the opportunities technological advancement brings, a lot more should be invested in developing proper infrastructure.