|The United AI Alliance is supplying developing countries with the latest Nvidia GPU data science workstations and training developers to work with them. (Source: United AI Alliance)
Data informs decisions. This rule applies in every industry, but nowhere is it more important than in the public sector. Data science and a strong digital infrastructure allow policymakers to make informed decisions about where they should spend their limited pool of money. Developed countries use data science tools like artificial intelligence (AI) to make important decisions related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.
Not all countries have access to data science tools. As a result, communities from lower-income countries often cannot make fully informed decisions, and people needlessly suffer for it.
The United AI Alliance aims to bridge this gap. Founded in 2021, this nonprofit alliance is led by the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, Future Tech, and Nvidia. They began training and distribution of Nvidia data science workstations that the developing countries can use as they see fit.
“We don’t want to be prescriptive as far as what other countries use this technology for. The Alliance has this powerhouse tool, so we ask, how can we help you?” said Geoffrey Levene, director of Worldwide AI Initiatives at Nvidia and chairperson of the United AI Alliance Steering Committee.
What the Alliance does
There are many ways a country can use data science. In their first phase, the Alliance worked with developers and the governments of Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. No country is the same; each has a different set of circumstances and will start this infrastructure where it is most useful. Three of the biggest applications of AI are census data, climate science, and health care.
The first goal for many countries was to bring data science infrastructure to national statistical offices (NSOs). These offices gather information that policymakers use to make their decisions—and digital infrastructure will make that data more accurate. “We’re working primarily with NSOs. Kenya and Ghana will have a digital census for the very first time. Machine learning can use census data to create more strategic policy. Sometimes countries will make policy to provide goods and services to help alleviate poverty, but it doesn’t always get to the right place. Machine learning can help address that,” Levene said.
NSOs are pivotal for government success. In many infrastructures, NSOs hold data for their other ministries—so when NSOs can store and handle their data in better and more efficient ways, other ministries within a government will also reap the benefits. Solution architects from Nvidia provide NSOs with hands-on training to ensure that data science workstations are used to their fullest extent.
|One of the many ways developing countries can use data science is to maximize agricultural yield to increase a farm’s productivity. (Source: United AI Alliance)
Another pivotal use of data science is to address agricultural concerns. In their first phase, the United AI Alliance noted that many countries were facing a food shortage, including Rwanda. In collaboration with local developers like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the United AI Alliance is planning on creating machine learning recommenders that can scale across an entire nation. Food data involves getting Internet of Things data sets from the fields and using that farm’s specific data to make an action plan. These systems can produce highly personalized plans that individual farmers can follow to mitigate any crop losses and maximize the yield of their farm.
Long-term, sustainable change
Bridging the data science gap is not an easy feat. The Alliance cannot simply drop off a supercomputer, teach somebody how it works, and pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Rather, this initiative is the first of its kind where the Alliance is planning for a long-term commitment to help roll out infrastructure to countries, train them to use data science, and team up with a variety of groups to build a pipeline of developers.
By focusing on the pipeline to train more developers, this technology and infrastructure will continue to be supported into the future. The Alliance collaborated with the Kenya-based Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence (AICE) Africa to train more AI engineers.
“Our journey in contributing to digitizing the African continent has taken another important leap because of this initiative. We have invested heavily in infrastructure and platforms that will enable digitization of some of the key sectors affecting African growth and understanding of the critical role of AI in achieving our mission efficiently. However, if we do not have enough qualified people to manage AI systems, our efforts will be futile. This collaboration will help develop solutions, methodologies, and best practices that are mutually beneficial for our companies, clients, and market as a whole,” said John Kamara, founder of AICE Africa.
This commitment to the future sets the United AI Alliance apart from other initiatives. Working with local communities like AGRA and AICE Africa will create sustainable change that can continue to service the new infrastructure. What use will an NSO workstation have if there are no AI engineers to operate it?
How everyone can help
Data science will revolutionize many industries in developing countries. The United AI Alliance and Nvidia are helping bridge this gap between countries and make a change across the globe. They are also welcoming financial donations as well as data scientists and those experienced with AI who are willing to volunteer their time.
In coming months, the Alliance and Future Tech will be sharing some of their success stories. They will be present at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference on November 6–18 and during Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference in March 2023. Nonprofits need sponsors. The United AI Alliance hosts these panels and high-profile events to educate philanthropists, government leaders, and C-suite executives about their mission.