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African creativity is key to getting the right data (and innovation) on the continent

African creativity is key to getting the right data (and innovation) on the continent


Creativity is a necessary prerequisite for meaningful innovation. The creative process involves planning forward-looking visions and novel approaches that ultimately emerge as new products and services. As African countries grapple with the regulation and utilization of artificial intelligence (AI), it is important not to overlook the creative processes that are particularly centered on Africa.

Combined with valuable open data, Africa's creativity presents immense opportunities to drive socio-economic development through data-driven innovation. As data technology researchers who value arts and culture, we often ask ourselves: What would a creativity-centered data policy look like in Africa? We explored this question in our latest publication on the Internet Sector Overview (ISO).

While researching our paper, we came across an insightful paper by Nadezhda Purtova and Gijs van Maanen. This paper examined the motivation for pursuing this topic at the intersection of creativity, digital economy, and open data governance. Purtova and van Maanen systematically and critically reviewed the economics literature that defines data as an economic good. Their conclusions challenge the notion that classifying data as an economic good helps achieve broader data governance goals, arguing instead that it primarily results in increased data production.

This observation may be true in the African context. We believe that while current data policy frameworks and rules prioritize solutions around data production and availability, we believe that while current data policy frameworks and rules prioritize solutions around data production and availability, we believe that driving innovation within digital ecosystems, protecting privacy, and upholding other human rights We are concerned that we may fall short of achieving other important goals, such as: Our paper therefore proposes the design of a data policy that aims to harness African creativity within the digital economy.

Furthermore, while public policy may not directly influence creativity, certain measures can play a role in fostering a socio-economic and regulatory environment that supports creative and data-driven innovation. We claim it can be done. We suggest several measures as possible steps in this direction, including ensuring fair participation in the data economy, skills development and diversification, data collaboration, and taking a precautionary approach to innovation. Masu.

Increase in participants

Since there is no clear path to innovation, we believe that data policies should aim to expand the pool of ideas and foster conditions that increase the likelihood of innovative outcomes. .

The African Union Data Policy Framework refers to the exploitation of traditional subjects in science, technology and innovation (STI). These STI subjects provide quantitative assessments of data and related issues, but are insufficient to incorporate qualitative or interdisciplinary perspectives. Africans trained in less popular fields, such as art and music, various forms of vocational training, and social science fields beyond anthropology, sociology, psychology, and economics, find themselves in the position of data. You should be encouraged to think like a user. This structural exclusion is exacerbated among women and gender diverse populations. Providing increased participation also contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of social impact and the individuals whose data is being analyzed or who are the targets of a particular innovation.

I also thought about how many ideas are lost simply because they seem unfeasible in an English-dominant world. Despite the fact that over 1,000 languages ​​are spoken on the African continent, discussions about data and related technologies are biased towards English-speaking languages. At the grassroots level, organizations like Masakhane and Makerere AI Lab are tackling these accessibility challenges. They are building high-quality text and speech datasets for low-resource languages ​​in East Africa. These datasets are intended to be open and can be used in several natural language processing (NLP)-based applications, such as spell checking and correction, and machine translation. Much more could be done at the public level.

Diversification of data functions

Important aspects of idea generation and creativity include the freedom to experiment and engage in playful exploration, especially with open data. However, current data practices often limit Africans to the role of data collectors or simply data subjects, resulting in a lack of equity and the diverse skills needed to move from ideation to implementation. is being overlooked. Collaborative efforts can be established to empower communities in both the design and collection of data. This can be achieved through digital policies that enhance data capabilities and allow individuals to annotate data based on their needs and experiences.

Optimize data sharing and collaboration

We drew inspiration from Oshiwambo culture and remembered the value placed on collaboration and collectivism. Like many other African cultures, the Namibians of Ahwambo believe that cooperative efforts can harness diverse abilities and enhance creative capabilities without compromising egalitarian efforts. Masu. Policymakers can leverage these African values ​​by supporting initiatives such as the Mozillas Common Voice Project, which enables data sharing and collaboration between various stakeholders, including communities and common interest groups. . However, we emphasize that in addition to technical requirements such as interoperability, data sharing and collaboration requires trust and, where possible, investment incentives from governments.

Creating a regulatory environment for creative experimentation

As African policymakers embark on a journey towards innovation through the creative use of open data, they are advancing regulatory frameworks that not only promote national security but also protect the human rights of data subjects and those affected by the data. It is important not to overlook the need to -Driven innovation. The creative ideas of a few should not create a situation hostile to the majority, especially when governments designate open government data as public infrastructure. In this regard, policies should emphasize the need to carefully consider the impact of particular technologies on people, even in the absence of evidence of harm or human rights violations. A precautionary approach to innovation helps avoid confusing the absence of evidence of harm with the actual absence of harm. Regulatory sandboxes can be a useful tool for assessing the impact of specific innovations.

Open data itself has no intrinsic value. However, the potential for innovation is greatly increased when diverse skills and knowledge are exchanged between collaborators who work together to safely develop products that increase utility in specific fields. We therefore believe that a nuanced approach to open data that emphasizes African creativity will have an impact on the tensions between open data and other data governance objectives such as privacy, inclusivity, and fair sharing of benefits. We conclude that it can be dealt with effectively.




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