UbuntuNet Alliance Partners with the University of Nairobi and the University of Johannesburg to support the development of emerging digital technology applications

Data, currently being generated at an exponential growth rate, coupled with Emerging Digital Technologies (EDT) have the ability to identify patterns, build explanatory models, and make predictions faster and more accurately than humans. EDT applications using AI and blockchain-based algorithms are being used to address seemingly intractable problems. These algorithms, mainly created in the developed countries, often lack transparency thereby limiting full exploitation of the potential for EDT/X-Data-based applications to address socio-economic challenges in developing countries. X-Data collectively refers to four overlapping data categories: big data, open data, user-generated data, and real-time data. Reaping full benefits from EDT in developing countries, where new forms of digital divide between them and developed countries are evolving, requires supportive systems for X-Data. Although the access gap to technology is narrowing, gaps on social integration and impact of technology are increasing. Further, barriers persist in the use and uptake of X-Data by decision-makers.

The year-long project, “Ecosystem Strengthening as a Catalyst for International Collaborative Development of Emerging Digital Technologies and X-Data Applications Tackling Socio Economic Challenges in Kenya and South Africa” supported by the RISA fund shall develop a deep understanding of the EDT/X-Data ecosystems within the two countries, to determine their states of maturity, challenges, and opportunities; build capacity and support networking of researchers, entrepreneurs, decision-makers and policy-makers addressing development challenges using EDT/X-Data-based applications; and develop and deploy a Digital Innovation Hub, an online collaborative and facilitative platform through which locally developed/adapted algorithms shall be used to create proof-of-concept applications to address challenges in identified sectors using existing data sets.

Led by the University of Nairobi and in partnership with the University of Johannesburg and UbuntuNet Alliance as the technology partner, the project outcomes shall be, strengthened EDT/X-Data ecosystems in both Kenya and SA, better equipped to develop and leverage these technologies to address national and regional development challenges through stronger Research and Development collaboration between actors; increased local development of algorithms (and thus Intellectual Property Rights) supporting EDT; and improved awareness among policy-makers leading to better policies and regulations.

The ‘Research and Innovation Systems for Africa’ Fund is a programme to support and strengthen research and innovation systems in six countries: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Ethiopia. The fund supports African institutions tackling the continent’s most complex social, economic, and health challenges.

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