African Economies at Risk of Falling Behind in the AI Revolution

Source: Cryptopolitan

African economies face a critical challenge in adapting to the transformative impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on business operations. Despite the global shift towards AI integration, the continent’s limited capacity for virtual storage and outdated mobile technology pose significant obstacles.

Connectivity and data storage deficiencies

Businesses incorporating AI into their processes require high-speed connectivity and substantial data storage capacity. However, Africa lags due to ongoing investments primarily directed towards closing the connectivity gap, particularly in rural areas. While the rest of the world embraces 5G technology, Africa invests in 3G and 4G networks.

John Omo, Secretary General of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), stresses governments and the private sector need to invest in cloud storage and upgrade to 5G technology. He highlights the significant gap between Africa and developed regions like Switzerland, which boasts more cloud space than Sub-Saharan Africa combined.

Legislative framework and public education

Several African countries, including Kenya, have implemented data protection laws to regulate the processing and usage of personal information essential for AI development. However, there remains a crucial need for public education to prepare users to leverage emerging opportunities facilitated by AI technology.

Despite legislative efforts, sub-Saharan Africa grapples with internet coverage and usage gaps. The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) reports that only 25% of the region’s population has mobile internet coverage, significantly below the global average of 51%. Additionally, a substantial portion of the population faces a coverage or usage gap, hindering access to mobile internet services.

Challenges in smartphone adoption

Access to smartphones remains a key determinant of mobile internet usage. While smartphone ownership in Kenya has increased, with 56% ownership in urban areas and 37% in rural areas, a notable percentage of smartphone owners do not utilize mobile internet services. 

Lack of awareness and understanding of mobile internet further compounds the issue, indicating the need for targeted education campaigns.

Governments and the private sector must prioritize investments in virtual data storage facilities and the transition to 5G technology to facilitate AI integration.

Enhance legislative frameworks

Continued efforts to implement robust data protection laws are essential to ensure AI technologies’ responsible and ethical use.

Public education initiatives should focus on increasing awareness and understanding of mobile internet services to maximize the potential benefits of AI technology.

THE AUTHOR: James Kinoti

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