It was only a matter of time. How could it not be? What with the internet telling us almost daily that AI is an extinction-level threat that needs to be at the forefront of our minds at all times? At least until whatever new fad sweeps the internet’s attention span in 2024. Until then, we must be ‘responsible’ when it comes to artificial intelligence. That’s exactly what The South African Artificial Intelligence Association (SAAIA) is looking to promote.
Never heard of The SAAIA before? That’s because it only launched last month. The SAAIA is a new “industry body focused on promoting the advancement of responsible AI in South Africa,” officially launching in Pretoria tomorrow, 19 July 2023, in conjunction with the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), as an apparent hub for AI in South Africa.
Finally on the front foot
The whole idea here is for the SAAIA to encourage the adoption of AI, responsibly of course, to promote the country’s economic growth, investments, trades, equality, and inclusivity for the “commercial and societal benefit of the citizens of South Africa.”
And it hopes to do that with the power of TUT, the Technology Innovation Agency, the Western Cape Government, several smaller AI startups, and two huge law firms by the names of Michalsons and Webber Wentzel – representatives of which can all be found on SAAIA’s Advisory Board.
The father of SAAIA, Dr. Nick Bradshaw said that SAAIA’s parent company, AI Media Africa, has researched AI and “related automation technologies” and found that it was currently impacting 120 traditional industries globally, creating new opportunities and challenges “in timescales never seen before.”
“From hype to a global reality, the SAAIA vision has been shaped by analysing the global and local landscape, identifying needs and filling the blanks with research. This has revealed both the challenges and opportunities AI and related smart technologies can bring to South Africa for both citizens and the wider economy.”
It’s all well and good to talk about keeping AI responsible in South Africa behind a wall of text, while simultaneously showing off the partners involved in the project. But what is the SAAIA actually doing to promote the betterment of South Africa’s citizens? Fortunately, SAAIA went deeper into this question:
“The SAAIA mission is to engage both individuals and organisations, novices and experts, those who are connected and not connected, so no one is left behind. It is of vital importance that the opportunities Artificial Intelligence present are possible and available for everyone to embrace — not just a select few.”
If that’s not specific enough, the organisation highlights ten of its key objectives to best achieve its vision:
- Serve as the voice of the industry
- Provide analysis and research to inform strategy and decision making
- Assist national, provincial & local governments with policy making
- Unite buyers and suppliers to grow the economy
- Connect SMMEs to funding to create new companies and jobs
- Attract foreign direct investment to South Africa as the “4IR gateway” to Africa
- Assist African smart tech companies to access international markets
- Showcase the best of South African AI innovation and research
- Promote debate on inclusion, ethics, regulation, and standards
- Share best practices and education resources for all
All that research and analysis isn’t being gatekept either. SAAIA is releasing all its data to individual SAAIA members, though membership is free and can be done on the association’s website right here. It will provide “access to resources, insights, and news throughout the year” along with discounts on tickets to join the SAAIA’s annual event, taking place in November later this year.