An African perspective on gender and artificial intelligence needs African data and research

Policy Brief 5

Western literature has covered a wide range of topics demonstrating the reality and potential of AI for gender justice from historical and contemporary perspectives. However, very little of this type of research and reflection is emerging from African scholarship. Much of the available literature consists of commentaries on the potential of AI for national development in general. To lay a foundation for more research on gender and AI in Africa, Research ICT Africa has included a crosscutting gender component in its ongoing study of AI and socio-economic development in Africa, as part of the AI4D project.

Highlights
  • Big data is a key element of Artificial Intelligence (AI), but the effective use of AI simultaneously depends on the scope and quality of the available data used to train and test algorithms.
  • Algorithms learn from real-world data and historically most traditional data sets are exclusionary and have left out women and other marginalised groups. Thus without careful consideration of the data that informs algorithms, AI can potentially perpetuate existing or even create new unconscious social biases.
  • African policymakers contemplating the use of AI to accelerate social and economic development should in parallel:
    • Enable the collection of gender-disaggregated data on the delivery, use and outcomes of AI and other technological systems;
    • Support gender research to anticipate the differential impacts of AI on men and women from different walks of life; and
    • Critically assess the local relevance of data and research from foreign or global sources.

Suggested citation

Sey, A., & Ahmed, S. (2020). An African perspective on gender and artificial intelligence needs African data and research (Policy Brief No. 5). Research ICT Africa. https://researchictafrica.net/publication/an-african-perspective-on-gender-and-artificial-intelligence-needs-african-data-and-research/