The public-private: a key legal nexus for South Africa’s AI future

Policy Brief 6

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here; but what ‘here’ means is very different according to the country in which it is being implemented or explored. In South Africa, a data controversy relating to the commercial use of the national social grants distribution database provides some foundational insight into future risks in the deployment of AI. In this policy brief, I specifically consider the public-private intersections in the deployment of technology-centred projects, and what accountability needs to look like to mitigate against the risk that citizens may be subject to because of them.

  • Private-public intersections are increasingly relevant in the delivery of services to the public, and AI in South Africa will grow the relevance of these relationships.
  • An examination of a South African case study demonstrates how the result of such relationships can lead to risks of infringements of the rights of citizens.
  • The case study also demonstrates that, while the law struggles to keep up with developments in the political economy of technologies, it can play a vital role in ensuring the accountability needed for a beneficial introduction of AI technologies into the development space.

Suggested citation

Razzano, G. (2020). The public-private: a key legal nexus for South Africa’s AI future (Policy Brief No. 6). Research ICT Africa.