Opinion – Artificial Intelligence: Data is the new gold rush

Opinion – Artificial Intelligence: Data is the new gold rush

Audrey Chanakira

Technology and innovation developments continue unabated, and it makes my heart sing. I love anything to do with Tech, and what we are seeing right now will be a game-changer across the world as well as in Namibia. New technologies are disrupting existing industries, and a prime example of one of these technologies is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Having recently attended the Southern Africa Sub-Regional Forum that was hosted in Windhoek, it has inspired me to spread the word on this topic. 

The Forum mainly discussed AI within the sub-regional and Namibian context. We cannot sit back and wait to see how the rest of the world embraces AI. We as Southern Africa, and Namibia, need to be at the forefront and leverage AI for our benefit as a nation and our people. 

But what is Artificial Intelligence? AI is the ability of a computer to think and learn. With AI, computers can perform tasks that are typically done by people, including processing language, problem-solving and in turn learning. Computers become better at the tasks that they do through learning, much like humans. AI allows organisations to make better decisions, improving core business processes by increasing both the speed
and accuracy of strategic decision-making processes. 

To simplify it, AI gives a computer certain data that we want it to learn. 

The computer learns that data so well that in the end, the output given by the computer helps us to make a more informed decision within a given context. This is all very well, but how does this benefit Namibia and Africa? Everything is based on data these days; all you are doing to feed the AI machines is inputting data. Data has, therefore, become more valuable than gold, and you can honestly say the new gold rush is the ‘data rush.’ To benefit, locally and across the continent, we need to educate and develop our expertise in these fields.

We need to start developing the skills to implement AI in our different sectors. Within the health, agriculture, financial and manufacturing sector.  If we look at the health sector, the technology can be leveraged to properly diagnose our people, based on local factors that are Namibia-specific. This is instead of purchasing an off-the-shelf system from abroad and trying to integrate it into our Namibian health systems. AI technology allows us to use our own data to learn and give accurate data as feedback. In simple terms, software developed overseas will be based on their data, environment, culture and user behaviours, ignoring each country’s specifics and data. 

Owning our own data is essential. Facebook, Google, and many others have created billion-dollar companies based on owning and exploiting data. It’s essential that we have and own our own data. The mining of data is like the mining for gold, extremely lucrative, and with data, there are terabytes of the stuff being added and created daily.  

We cannot create another local Facebook or Google, but we can develop our own apps and programmes that generate data through its users. AI isn’t a trend, it is a tool that is being used to transform technology and countries, and change lives.  If we wonder if we can create our own apps, we just need to look towards China. They do not use WhatsApp or Amazon. 

They created their own versions in the form of WeChat and Ali Baba. AI can and will benefit us; we just need to know how to best harness the technology and implement it. I for one want to be right in the middle of this AI revolution.  

 

*Audrey Chanakira is the Lead iOS Developer/AR and VR Mobile Apps at Green Enterprise Solutions.