Does Kenya have the necessary skills for AI?

The lack of access to free, up-to-date and machine-readable government data stands in the way of Kenya tapping into opportunities brought by artificial intelligence (AI), a Nation Newsplex analysis reveals.

The country tops Africa and ranks 52 globally out of 194 countries on the government’s readiness to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) in public services but only manages positions seven in the continent and 78 out of 94 globally in the availability of government data, according to two key reports.

The Government Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index 2019 report, by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Oxford Insights, factors in 11 inputs grouped into four main categories — governance, infrastructure and data, skills and education as well as government and public services.

An AI-ready government will display both strong political will and capacity to push for innovation,” says the report.

No African country features in the top 50 AI readiness index, whereas only 12 are in the top 100.

“Not only will they not reap the potential benefits of AI, but there is also the danger that unequal implementation widens global inequalities,” the report says.

The Global Open Data Index 2016/17 by the Open Knowledge Network Foundation, on the other hand, gauges the availability of government data and hints at how much data might be available to model and train AI algorithms to carry out various tasks.

Kenya scores a measly 15 percent, meaning that there is little useful government data easily available for AI experts or learners in Kenya to use to develop credible solutions.

This despite access to information, which includes data, being a citizen’s constitutional right. In comparison, the leading country, Taiwan, scores 90 percent.

According to the Access to Information Act of 2016, every citizen has the right to access to information held by the State, except in special circumstances such as when it undermines national security or impedes due process of law.

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