Cape Town Launch Event: AI as a Public Good: Ensuring Democratic Control of AI in the Information Space

On the 28th of February, Research ICT Africa (RIA) was proud to have been the African regional partner to host the global launch of the Forum on Information & Democracy’s (FID) new report on Artificial Intelligence and its Implications for the Information and Communication Space. This event took place online and in five cities worldwide as part of the launch of the Forum’s policy framework: AI as a Public Good: Ensuring Democratic Control of AI in the Information Space

The policy framework released contains more than 200 policy recommendations relevant to both governments and technology companies. It takes a comprehensive approach calling for safe and inclusive AI systems, putting in place accountability mechanisms and incentives for ethical AI as well as governance mechanisms. 

Speaking about the importance of being a co-host of the launch of FID’s report, RIA Executive Director, Alison Gillwald said: “With the erosion of democracy around the world and the potential to use AI to ferment disorder in the Year of Elections, 23 of them in Africa, this report could not be more timely.”

In conjunction with the Cape Town event, in-person meetings and discussions around the report took place in four other cities organised in collaboration with key partners:

·   Center for Human-Compatible Artificial Intelligence (UC Berkeley, United States)

·   Florence School of Transnational Governance (European University Institute, Italy)

·   Institute of Education, Development and Research (Brazil), and

·   Paris School of International Affairs, Tech and Global Affairs Innovation Hub (SciencesPo, France).

Event speakers included Christophe Deloire, Chair of the Forum on Information and Democracy, speaking from Paris, who introduced the report’s key points. He was followed by co-chairs, Jonathan Stray and Laura Schertel Mendes, respectively in Berkeley and Brasilia. RIA Senior Research Associate Scott Timcke spoke about creating strong democratic institutions through civil society participation before giving the floor to Gabriela Ramos, a member of the working group who led the development of the Ethics of AI recommendations at UNESCO.

After the virtual event, RIA held an in-person discussion and debate. The group discussed the importance of contextualising global recommendations such as those published in this report for the Global South, and Africa more specifically.

Speaking about the value of hosting this event in Cape Town Scott Timcke stressed the need to extend human rights and democratic values in the AI space: “This report reflects the Forum’s ambitious vision to shape AI as a technology that serves citizens, not just markets. The many concrete recommendations drive home that AI must be developed as a public good in service of citizens and democracy.”

For more information or to read the full report visit the Forum on Information & Democracy website.