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The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) invite proposals from independent policy research organizations from across the African continent that are committed to using research to inform and influence national-level artificial intelligence (AI) policies and research ecosystems. This funding opportunity will provide funding to two (2) AI policy research organizations representing distinct linguistic regions (anglophone and francophone).
September 30, 2020
Call for proposals release date
November 4, 2020
Proposal submission deadline
November 18, 2020
Eligibility and requirements
This call for proposals is open to established research organizations from eligible countries across the African continent with strong research and policy engagement track records in the subjects that are critical for responsible AI. Only institutions that meet the eligibility criteria outlined here should submit proposals for possible funding.
To be eligible, applicants must meet the following criteria:
- Possess a track record of research and analysis on the governance of digital technologies, and experience with developing and giving input on digital policies and regulations in a national and/or regional context. This includes experience with the cluster of issues that intersect with AI and the digital ecosystem;
- Applicants must demonstrate subject area expertise in at least three of the main AI policy and research themes listed in policy research areas below and show capacity and drive to augment work in other critical areas. Given the complexity of AI policy issues, this precludes institutions that focus exclusively on one sector or policy issue; and
- Be committed to using research to inform national (and regional) public debates and to create spaces for discussion and new ideas.
Final decisions will be based on selecting one Centre from each linguistic category.
Institutions must at the minimum:
- Be legally registered in the country of operation;
- Have and provide audited financial statements;
- Have a Board of Directors and a chief executive that is accountable to the Board;
- Have ethics protocols in place for research;
- Have the ability to convene researchers from other countries in the region;
- Be a non-governmental, non-profit independent organization;
- Not depend exclusively on the government for funding;
- Carry out policy-oriented research;
- Carry out “multi-sector” research on advanced technology policy issues that brings together social and economic policy issues.
Organizations must be currently existing policy research organizations. Funding will not be provided for the creation of new centres/think tanks, nor to centres created for the purpose of applying for a grant from this initiative.
The desired outcomes include credible research, strong organizational performance, high quality research and policy planning capacity with demonstrated impact on AI policies and improved policy engagement.
The aim of the AI4D Africa initiative is to ensure that policymakers across Africa can find and leverage state-of-the-art, objective and high-quality AI-related policy research that will inform decision-making on key responsible AI policy issues. In turn, this will allow communities across the continent to benefit from the opportunities that AI offers, including improved health, agriculture, governance, education and economic prospects, while being shielded as much as possible from the potential harms of AI.
To this end, the approach of the AI policy centres program is to provide financial support for implementing a responsible AI policy research agenda, mentorship, and capacity building, along with knowledge networking opportunities that will support broad-based responsible AI policy research organizations in Africa.
The program will facilitate:
Policy development on artificial intelligence: Facilitate responsible AI policy and regulatory development. This means that:
- Research and policy leaders are able to provide suggestions for effective regulatory frameworks for AI technologies and applications;
- Research/policy incentivizes responsible AI innovation ecosystems, and fosters skills and applications to harness the promise of AI; and
- Research outcomes help develop appropriate norms and standards based on local environments.
Research-to-policy capacity development: To achieve sound policy development, the key is to strengthen research and policy capacity to produce credible and legitimate research that convenes different perspectives on AI. This means that:
- Policy research leaders understand salient AI policy and regulatory issues and understand the implications of different approaches and can stay on top of emerging legislation that could undermine responsible AI;
- Research teams convene a broad range of skill sets/expertise including governance and politics; technology and technology policy analysis skills; qualitative and quantitative research; data governance and data analytics, and social science research that captures the complexity of socio-economic, political, and gender-related issues;
- Research teams facilitate and/or draw together experts on AI policy locally/nationally and regionally.
Organizational development: To achieve improvements in research capacity and policy development, the key is to strengthen institutional and organizational capacity to support AI policy subject expertise. This means that:
- Institutions can draw in and sustain resources that support world-quality research expertise; and
- Systems are strengthened to support high quality research and researchers, and research institutions are able to keep talent and offer competitive packages.
Policy and research themes can include (but are not limited to):
- Enabling beneficial AI research and development
- Economic impacts, labor shifts, inequality, and technological unemployment
- Accountability, transparency, and explainability
- Surveillance, privacy, and civil liberties
- Fairness, ethics, and human rights
- Diversity and gender equality
- Data capacity, analytics, protection and governance
- Political manipulation and computational propaganda
- Human dignity, autonomy, and psychological impact
- AI safety
Central African Republic*
Democratic Republic of the Congo*
Republic of the Congo
Sao Tome and Principe*
* Applications from organizations based in these countries are eligible; however, such applications may be subject to a further stage of review within IDRC before these can be approved.
How to Apply
Proposals will be submitted via baobab.ai4d.ai. You will need to create an account, which will allow you to access your application as many times as you need until you decide to submit. You will also need additional information and documentation to complete the proposal, including examples of your research and policy work and the CVs of your research team.
The proposal and all requested supporting materials must be submitted through baobab.ai4d.ai no later than
23:59 EDT on November 4, 2020.