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Kenya to Collaborate with Global Partners in Ensuring Ethical Use of AI

ICT and the Digital Economy PS, Eng. John Tanui has reiterated Kenya’s commitment in ensuring the responsible and ethical use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the betterment of humanity, upholding cherished freedoms, ethics and democratic values.

Speaking today while giving his address during the opening ceremony of the Ministerial Conference on Artificial Intelligence/Digital Technologies and Democracy in Seoul, South Korea, where he represented Information, Communications and the Digital Economy Cabinet Secretary Mr. Eliud Owalo, Tanui noted that Kenya stands ready to collaborate with global partners in building strong frameworks for Artificial Intelligence. The Keynote Speaker was the United States of America Secretary of State, Mr. Antony J. Blinken.

Eng. Tanui noted that Automation and AI tools have notably enhanced service delivery, facilitated improved access to credit for previously marginalized individuals through initiatives such as the “Hustler Fund,” in addition to streamlining access to agricultural inputs through technology leading to increased national agricultural output.

He, however, noted, while AI holds the promise of enhancing democracy by improving access to information, decision-making processes and transparency, it also poses significant challenges such as the concentration of power, erosion of privacy, acute increase of inequalities, the proliferation of technology-driven misinformation and disinformation.

“In order to safeguard democracy in the age of AI, we must prioritize transparency, accountability and inclusivity. Policymakers must enact robust regulations to ensure ethical development and deployment of AI systems, coupled with effective oversight mechanisms,” said Tanui.

“While the rise of AI and Digital technologies presents unprecedented opportunities for economic growth and innovation, it also brings forth complex challenges that necessitate global co-operation and commitment,” added Tanui.

The PS noted that the Kenyan government is actively empowering its citizens to seize these opportunities through comprehensive training and awareness programs aimed at equipping them with essential digital skills and expertise vital for active participation in the digital and knowledge-based economy.

He further noted that the country is bolstering connectivity nationwide by constructing a 100,000 km Digital Superhighway and establishing Digital Hubs in 1,250 Wards, which will serve as epicenters of training, innovation and digital employment opportunities.

“Moreover, the digitization of government services has revolutionized citizen engagement by enabling convenient access to essential services. As of now, we have over 15, 000 government services available online for our citizens,” said Tanui.

“At this point, I thank the government and people of South Korea for support in establishment of Kenya Advance Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) at Konza Technopolis, 60 Kilometers from our Capital City of Nairobi. This institution will indeed play a key role in growth of technology and knowledge economy in Kenya and the entire Africa continent,” added Tanui.

Tanui further noted that the Ministerial Conference on Artificial Intelligence/Digital Technologies and Democracy is a timely and important event in the dynamic landscape of today’s digital world, given that the world is witnessing the unprecedented rise of the digital space, offering vast opportunities and emerging as a pivotal driver of economic growth.

“Data from various sources underscore the transformative potential of the Digital Economy. For example, projections by the World Bank suggest that digital technologies could add a staggering $2.6 trillion to global economic output by 2025.

“This remarkable growth trajectory is fueled by the emergence of groundbreaking technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, block chain, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), which hold promise in addressing pressing global challenges like climate change, need for a circular economy and realization of sustainable technologies,” added Tanui.

Blinken appealed for collective work to build a more resilient information environment, digital tech and democracy, where he called on democracies to lead the world in AI innovation, setting the norms, standards and rules by which AI is used in an effort to ensure the world reaps technology’s extraordinary opportunities, but also protects people from harm.

He underscored the crucial role and tremendous power that AI can play to drive development, improve people’s lives and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.

“AI could accelerate progress 80 percent of the goal, from improving agricultural productivity, combating hunger, preventing outbreak of disease to accelerating our clean energy transition. It creates jobs and protects our planet at the same time.

“Kenya, for instance, has deployed a new AI-enabled bot that enables women and girls to access comprehensive and accurate reproductive health information,” added Blinken.

In attendance during the conference that is being co-hosted by H.E. Maria Gabriela Sommerfeld, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ecuador (Co-Host) is H.E. Vera Jourova, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, European Commission; H.E. Tiit Riisalo, Minister of Economic Affairs and Information Technology, Estonia: Hon. Dr. Mamadou Tangara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Co-operation and Gambians Abroad, Gambia, among other dignitaries from across the world.

By Rachael Kilonzo

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