New Dawn Nigeria

AI as game-changer for the competitiveness of African children

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Nothing is more important, certainly during these times of artificial intelligence, than our public education. And as it continues to grow and evolve, I think you and I know this is going to be critical that we are constantly training and retraining and creating these next-generation jobs. – Marc Benioff

We are already in the second Quarter of 2019 and I have been very busy attending international conferences and conferring with experts in the education sphere from all of the world to learn from their best practices. More than ever, the drive has intensified to decipher what will work for our African children and what won’t work for them.

Anyone who knows me personally would attest to how much of a lifelong learner I am and how I much I dig in with everything into research (if you hear me whine about research, ignore me).

The foremost question that plagued me through 2018 and is still haunting me in 2019 is: How will life be for our African children in an increasingly automated, tech- (read AI-) focused world?

There is a lot of talk across the world about AI and its impact on jobs, and the fear is exacerbated in Africa. Yet there is little talk about the benefits and opportunities that it affords. There is historical precedence for this, even in 1962 when the late President John F. Kennedy launched a project named the “Manpower Development and Training Program” to help retrain employees whose jobs had been lost due to automation. History seems to be repeating itself as AI is all over the news, with lots of emphasis on all of the jobs that will be lost due to it.

There have been massive layoffs in nearly every industry across the world, as more of the work gets digitised. Amazon commenced checkout-free shopping and automatic billing at it’s first store almost two years ago, with self-checkout systems becoming standard fare in lots of retail giants across the world. Even in Africa, there are less bank tellers as more tech integration is being pushed across board.

Unfortunately, instead of embracing AI, there is a reluctance to utilise its tools in our educational system and this is rather sad because we should be impressing upon the students how they can utilise AI to create solutions to benefit all.

The other side of the coin is the fact AI will replace the 1.8 million eliminated jobs with 2.3 million newer jobs in this emerging field, according to a Gartner report. There will be myriads of lucrative jobs for people who have the necessary skills. The World Bank has validated this report by stating that AI and robotics will, in fact, create lots of new opportunities which would increase productivity and alter the delivery of public services for better.

After my extensive research (taking AI courses online to understand what it entails better), I am more concerned about the positive ways that AI could impact Africa for better – from the creation of healthcare solutions, expanding food supply, helping refugees adjust to new circumstances, enhancing educational asset and access, and cleansing our air, and water supply. The amazing promise for Africans to make their continent better through AI is endless, as long as we know how to use it.

Unfortunately, instead of embracing AI, there is a reluctance to utilise its tools in our educational system and this is rather sad because we should be impressing upon the students how they can utilise AI to create solutions to benefit all.

From my extensive reading and research, I am convinced that AI is an integral part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and it will indeed be the game-changer in how it will revolutionise applications and processes to ultimately benefit everyone. I have been traveling extensively for the past 12 months and it is evident already across the globe that its impact will be felt in all aspects of day-to-day living – how we shop, healthcare, how we drive our cars, etc. The World Economic Forum has stated thatAI could create 58 million net new jobs in the next few years, while Economic Modeling Specialists International predicts that jobs in STEM fields will to grow by 13 per cent between now and 2027.

The place where this gap will be bridged is our classrooms or whatever versions that exist, in which our students are learning. As I have been stating in my previous articles, the switch from being consumers of technology to creators of technology will begin there.

Next week, I will break down understanding AI and explaining it in the simplest of terms.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.

Culled: Premium Times

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