Here’s what former Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara had to say about Zim’s readiness for AI

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Image credit: Prof. Arthur G.O. Mutambara on X

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is upon us. We are seeing so many AI applications launch by the day, it’s ridiculous. It is the modern day gold rush.

AI promises to help developing countries catch up to the developed world. However, nothing is guaranteed and so some countries will miss out on this.

Professor Arthur Mutambara, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe who is a Robotics and Mechatronics engineer by training had a few things to say about Zimbabwe’s readiness for Artificial Intelligence.

The guy is now a Director and Professor at the University of Johannesburg. He made a presentation to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce on the topic. You can read the whole text here.

Here is a summary of what he said. Fittingly, AI helped with the summary.

Zimbabwe’s Readiness for Artificial Intelligence

  • Importance of AI for Zimbabwe: AI has the potential to drive productivity and growth across various sectors in Zimbabwe. However, the country needs to be prepared to embrace this technology effectively.
  • AI Readiness Requires: Building public awareness, upskilling the workforce, and developing necessary infrastructure (power, connectivity).
  • Impact of AI on Jobs: Jobs will be lost, modified, and created due to AI. Reskilling and continuous learning are crucial.
  • AI Regulation Framework: Zimbabwe needs a regulatory framework to address ethical concerns, data privacy, algorithmic bias, and potential risks.
  • Learning and Research: New approaches to learning are needed, focusing on critical thinking, problem-solving, and multidisciplinary skills.
  • Enablers for AI Readiness: Political will, digitalization, efficient governance, and embracing AI leapfrogging opportunities are crucial.
  • AI Regulation Principles: Context-specific, pro-innovation, risk-based, adaptable, and focused on user safety and data privacy.
  • Five Risk Verticals: Robustness, bias, privacy, explainability, and efficacy need to be considered when assessing AI systems.
  • Harmonized Laws and Regulations: Zimbabwe should collaborate with SADC and AU to develop harmonized AI laws and regulations.
  • Linking AI Readiness to Regional Plans: Align AI readiness with existing regional industrialization plans.
  • Six Strategic Initiatives for Businesses: Create an AI roadmap, build talent, adopt a new operating model, distribute technology, embed data everywhere, and unlock user adoption.
  • Key Strategies for Businesses to Thrive: Define clear objectives, invest in talent, ensure data quality, start small and scale, focus on user experience, collaborate with startups, and embrace continuous learning.
  • Developing AI Companies in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe needs to create and grow AI companies specializing in research, development, and application of AI solutions.
  • Concluding Remarks: Implement an AI National Strategy, leverage AI strengths while understanding limitations, prioritize Zimbabwean involvement in AI development, strive to own AI technologies, develop regulations, establish AI companies, and encourage participation in AI development globally.

What to make of it

To be honest, I don’t know how useful his remarks will be. Is anyone with the necessary influence even listening?

Some of the stuff he said sounds good on paper but doesn’t really make sense in practice – you don’t just create/establish AI companies, for example. Even with the proper tax incentives.

Also, it’s easy to say Zimbabwe needs to develop the necessary infrastructure (power, connectivity) to take advantage of AI.

We have been trying to solve our power, connectivity, water, health and other problems for decades. It’s not going to magically happen because we need to take advantage of AI.

His other remarks are spot on but sound obvious. It’s not a mark against him, it needed to be said out loud, I guess. ‘We need new approaches to learning,” oh, you don’t say Professor. “Political will and efficient governance are crucial,” oh my goodness, preach!

The Professor had good suggestions though. He talked about an AI national strategy and that is sorely needed. Good thing the speaker of Parliament is thinking about these things and pushing Parliament to look into it:

This means, at the very least, some politicians are thinking about these things. I don’t know if I’m ready to believe this will lead to anything tangible anytime soon but at least it’s happening.

The Professor also talked about building public awareness and upskilling the workforce. Nothing is more important than upskilling the workforce, I would argue. However, how do we actually go about doing that?

You can let us know what you think about all this in the comments section below.

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  1. The Last Don

    How do we embrace AI when we are shutting the door to the enablers like SkyLink who can make it possible by the provision of high speed internet? In this situation we have we mustn’t be talking of such things like AI, telemedicine, autonomous systems, etc.

  2. Anonymous

    AI when we don’t have stable and affordable internet. Zim is a joke

  3. Blessing Mwale

    I am glad as the author you have acknowledged the use of AI. Therefore, it is imperative that you use your platform to help like-minded people to learn, to grow and also help in the conversation of AI technology. I work at a school and we have established an Edutech Support Team for our staff members, where we introduce them to tech that helps with their planning and enhanced the learners’ experiences; at this stage we don’t need government intervention. However, we have been made alert to the opportunities and as individuals, companies, institutions, etc we can use AI to leverage our own businesses or interests; it’s a useful tool and a low hanging fruit!

  4. Blessmwale

    ‘Rome was not built in a day’ but you have to start somewhere! The conversations are important and they will help us to begin to think of innovative ways to harness AI technology. Simply start by grabbing the low hanging fruit instead of worrying about size or that state of the orchard at the moment. What can one as an individual do with AI tech especially when there aren’t regulations as yet to limit us? How can one harness AI tech to generate new ideas for the workplace, business or even personal enhancement? Do we need the govt at this stage? We created an Edutech Dept. to help with teachers’ use of Edutech to prepare their lessons and enhance learners’ experiences. This is an opportunity to pioneer perhaps small but significant innovations in your own space…at least for now!

    1. Impressed Uncle

      Honestly, I think kids (20 and below) are the tip of the spear on this one. They got on it almost instantly and have integrated it in a myriad of clever ways. They don’t need policy to drive them to adopt it. However, other policies that influence wider access to connectivity may prove more impactful. Apart from that, theres no need to wait on government on this.

  5. Sophia the bot

    Anything is possible & we are capable but haaa, the guy in the middle..idambudzo 4 real

  6. Sophia the bot

    We are capable of utilizing these inevitable tools…but aghh, eish, the guy in the middle.., haaa idambudzo 4 real.

  7. Verbatim bulletin

    The problem with such rendition on AI is that by the time they become adoptive technology would be miles ahead plans, Because of myriad the country’s facing, we find ourselves lagging behind in the sense that our access to data and WiFi is so dearly compromised, but experimentally on Bluetooth frequency you can try on these algorithm of AI on a small scale,
    Just to so avoid the searing lesson of tailing what other advanced nations do at larger scale that why the Professor emphasised on reading extensive coz AI is travelling at speeds never know to this world
    The tasks that are synonymous with little or no data today are, Adevice that cleans rooms, chicken feeding quips, etc those are only ones manageable with our state of economy, but do not stop reaching far more challenging tasks

  8. Captain Jack Sparrow

    I might come across as a cynic or worse nihilist kkkk BUT being frank Zim has not yet reached the stage or do we have the mental faculties to comprehend the endless possibilities that comes with AI. Let’s just be honest with ourselves we are a 3rd world country with a third world mentality kwaaaaaa I have a friend who has a 1st class degree in computer science but doesn’t know how to install an operating system ( that is typical Zimbo). Let’s first deal with our current predicaments ,issues on labour policies , unemployment, drug abuse , early marriages etc zveAI ngatimbozviisiye kuseri kwedoor kkkkkk

    1. VaHwai

      Trust me Zim produces engineers but they don’t stay for peanuts here…most get into management and the other lot leave for better renumeration then we’re left nema maintenance engineers but you’re right about our third world thinking 😂we need to develop in other areas first

  9. M. Magava

    The professor is spot-on. First of all we need to participate in research and production of technologies. What are we doing in terms of R&D? NOTHING. What technologies are we producing for the world? NOTHING. We are just consumers of other people’s technologies. We are just good at operating and maintaining other people’s technologies. We have engineers who cannot engineer/produce anything.

    Other organizations such as UNESCO invite Member States to participate in R&D but no one is interested especially at personal and policy levels. We wait for other countries and institutions to do it and then we consume their products. How do we expect to develop under such a scenario. There is no development without production and owning industrial technologies.

    If we look at what we call R&D its not R&D, it’s just Technology
    Transfer. Yes, we can start somewhere but at the moment we have not started. We are still trying to understand what AI is, yet other countries are already miles ahead. The limiting factors are resource allocation and willingness among others. There are individuals who are willing but there is no support locally and they end up being poached abroad and Zimbabwe loses out.

    In Zimbabwe there is little invention but more of innovation. The current thrust towards innovation hubs will change the mindset to research centre’s that are capable of producing technologies and industrial machines because we cannot industrialise if we do not produce industrial machines. The first industrial revolution was on production and using industrial equipment.

  10. Me

    Bulawayo was the hub for electrical goods in the 70s Companies like Marilyn ,WRS, and Supersonic used to manufacture radios and televisions.Eveready batteries were also manufactured in Bulawayo but those companies justvanished in the late 80s Government was busy striping assets while they went under.
    To be talking of AI creation in Zimbabwe is an insult.

  11. Admire Kamutimbe from THE TECHHUB SHOW PODCAST

    The future favors the bold. Thanks for the article, let’s do all we can to use and learn about this AI. Prof Mutambara’s views on AI are spot-on. looking at it from an individual point of view, AI is already doing more for average Zimbabweans especially to cut marketing and advertising related costs. The issue we need to work on as a nation is to work with what we have at hand,we wish for the best.

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