K4A supported travel grants for the participants a UNESCO organized workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Fairness at the Deep Learning Indaba 2019, the annual gathering of the African Machine Learning Community at Kenyatta University in Kenya. The workshop advocated for human Rights centered, Open, Accessible and Multistakeholder driven development of artificial intelligence as outlined in its study “Steering AI for Knowledge Society: A ROAM Perspective”. The workshop brought together experts in the domains of law, gender, AI, ICTs and community development from within Africa to present their insights and exchange ideas with AI researchers and students at the Indaba.


Teki Akuetteh Falconer, Lawyer and Executive Director of Africa Digital Rights’ Hub, speaking on Fairness, Transparency & Data Protection as Building Blocks to human-centric Artificial Intelligence Systems; underlined that waiting for law to catch up with technology has proved to be ineffective due to the rapid pace of change in technology. She therefore stressed the need to incorporate human rights concerns from the design stage for AI, as the relationship between AI and people is a symbiotic one. She further stressed “privacy  is the essence of who I am” and therefore if AI systems are built to enhance human life, it is only imperative   that privacy protection is built-in different products and services to ensure trust, fairness, transparency and safety of all.

Grace Mutung'u showed how data collection processes, including in national censuses and Digital ID projects are not gender sensitive.  In one such example, she explained how questions about childbirth and stillborn babies in census surveys force women to live their trauma repeatedly.

Raymond Onuoha, ICT policy researcher at Lagos Business School and UNESCO’s inclusive policy lab, pointed out that Internet penetration in Africa is still very low at an average 21% for the continent to benefit fully from the AI economy. He argued that high cost of internet services; low investments in infrastructure along with digital illiteracy are issues that need to be addressed for Africa to fully harness its AI potential.

Nazneen Rajani discussed the ‘Black-Box’ problem of AI and presented how AI models may produce correct results without explaining how these results are produced. The ‘Black-Box’ problem of AI threatens accountability in decisions taken by machines. She shared research on how sustained efforts by researchers to make AI explainable have the potential to improve accountability including based on her approach of ‘Common Sense Reasoning’ to explain the decisions taken by AI algorithms.

Bhanu Neupane of UNESCO underlined the organization’s commitments to capacity building and raising awareness in order to strengthen the digital technology and policy ecosystem in Africa, including through its participation at the Deep Learning Indaba 2020 in Tunisia. He added that the outcomes of the workshop would help achieve the objectives concerning i) Human Capital and social capabilities; and ii) Policy, law and human rights of the UN system-wide strategic approach and roadmap for supporting capacity development on artificial intelligence.