Maria Fasli, University of Essex, UNESCO Chair in Data Science and Analytics on developing AI solutions in Africa

February 9, 2020
Play video by Maria Fasli, University of Essex, UNESCO Chair in Data Science and Analytics at workshop “Toward a Network of Excellence in Artificial Intelligence for Development (AI4D) in sub-Saharan Africa”, Nairobi, Kenya, April 2019

What are you working on at the moment?

My name is Maria Fasli, I am a professor of computer science and my area of expertise is in Artificial Intelligence. I work for the University of Essex in the UK. I work in arrange of projects, with both, industry as well as public sector organizations, trying to help them to understand the data that they have, their needs around data and how to make better use of their data.

How do you perceive development and Artificial Intelligence?

This is a really interesting question; I think AI has a really big roll to play in development. We need to bring AI into the developing countries and transitioning countries, to make a difference on the ground. It is not about us making up solutions in the west, but it is about developing solutions here locally.

There is a whole area that we need to work on around developing capacity and helping people create the right networks here in Africa as well as in other areas in the world, South Africa, Southeast Asia, to make a difference.

There is a big scope to use AI to support sustainable development goals and make progress, help developing and transitioning countries, develop into knowledge economies so that they can be the ones that have the power to make a difference for their own citizens.

What is your blue sky project in Africa?

This is another really good question. In the west, we’ve been using surveys to collect data and we’ve been doing clinical trials, we’re always trying to learn in a very structured kind of way. What I would like to work on if I had an unlimited budget is techniques that can learn and reason from observation on data.

Where are you trying instead of running a survey and collecting data about the population where you can control what it is that you’re getting back. Learning from the kind of data that is already available, because there is an abundance of data, but we’re currently lacking the techniques and trying to make sense out of this data.

How do you feel about the workshop?

I think it has been amazing, we’ve made a lot of progress, we’ve had concrete ideas coming out as the next steps and I look forward to personally supporting the initiative going forward if I’m needed in whichever way is possible.

Do you have a one-liner for us? One line?

A slogan. AI for all!