Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be what Africa needs to build a resilient society primary health care system and ensure adequate and quality health services for all.
This was the consensus when experts gathered at the Media and Development Conference 2023 (MDC23) organised by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), in Abuja on Monday.
The conference is themed: “Bridging Democracy, Innovation, and Media Sustainability in West Africa.”
Insights on how AI is reshaping healthcare delivery, education, and societal frameworks were shared through the perspectives of tech enthusiasts, educators, and healthcare professionals.
Speaking during one of the panel sessions, titled: “The Future of Primary Healthcare in Africa: Strengthening Intersectional Collaboration in AI-Tech-Driven Solutions” the founder of MinoHealth AI Labs, Darlington Akogo, said AI possesses lots of knowledge which can be beneficial to primary healthcare in the country.
Mr Akogo said there is a shortage of clinicians in Nigeria and across the African region, and the potential of AI is to build systems that are capable of automating some portion of what doctors do and also serve as assistance.
He also shared his insights on how the beauty of AI lies in its human-like capabilities but noted that it may be difficult to get AI to do exactly what human beings are good at.
“The whole idea of AI is that it is a machine with human abilities and its potential is immense, however, there are limitations to what it can provide. We need to ensure safety by deploying it in ethical contexts. AI is a powerful technology that, when harnessed for good, can transform societies,” he said.
The session was moderated by Mojeed Alabi, head, Development Desk, at Premium Times.
Also speaking, the Director of Advocacy and Policy, AIDs Healthcare Foundation, Kemi Gbadamosi, emphasised the need for a structured framework for AI to work in the healthcare sector.
Ms Gbadamosi said, “Health is relevant by virtue and for AI to make a real impact, we require a distinct document outlining frameworks for both ICT and healthcare.”
She said it is about fostering collaboration between two seemingly distinct realms and having a tailored framework will ensure they complement each other seamlessly.
Contributing to the discussion, Obele Oluchi, the Programme Coordinator, Christian Aid, said AI has come to stay, and the country’s acceptance of it is key to maximising its benefits.
Mr Oluchi said the media needs to play a significant role in shaping existing perceptions about AI.
“We need to ‘sell’ AI in the right way, highlighting its potential benefits. Moreover, there’s a need for audience education and robust data protection measures as we venture into this new era.”
Influence on education
A Professor from Bayero University, Kano, Shehu Tijani, said the intervention of AI technology has made it difficult to differentiate the brilliant from the dull students.
Mr Tijani said AI also makes it difficult to differentiate the efforts of academics and the efforts of those who are in the practical field.
“All these have become difficult due to the new technology because we are in an era which is pointing towards the future. Unless we take this very seriously, we will be left behind just like what has happened to the Industrial Revolution,” he said.
“We need to know the fact that every aspect of our lives is going to the first instance of AI and that means that there are lots of areas where it can be applied, including education.”
He noted that while some countries like China have seen the importance of AI, and have adopted it into their curricula, it does suggest that there must be something in it that Nigerians must also try to emulate.
He said AI can revolutionise one’s approach to learning.
“Primary schools should integrate AI into their curriculum, addressing societal challenges through technological solutions. We must develop curricula that adapt to the present and anticipate the future.”
AI is the development of computer systems or software that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence.
These tasks include learning, reasoning, problem-solving, understanding natural language, speech recognition, and visual perception. AI aims to create machines or systems that can simulate human intelligence and, in some cases, surpass human capabilities in specific domains.
Machine learning, neural networks, and deep learning are common approaches within the broader field of AI.
About the conference
The programme director at the CJID, Akintunde Babatunde, said the conference’s primary objective is to create a robust platform for relevant media experts, donor agencies and policymakers to engage in a comprehensive dialogue on the state of media and democracy in West Africa.
Mr Babatunde said the MDC23 brings together experts and stakeholders from media, development, civil society, and digital innovation.
The organisers in a statement issued ahead of the event said the conference would serve as a platform for fostering discussions on emerging developmental challenges and the convergence of media and innovation in West Africa.
It said the conference will also delve into sustainable development strategies and emphasise the essential role of media in strengthening democracy and advancing sustainability.
“The media environment in West Africa faces a multitude of urgent challenges, including government censorship, financial constraints, and inadequate legal protections,” the CJID said, adding that these pressing issues require immediate attention and innovative solutions.
“CJID, through this conference, is committed to confronting these issues head-on and presenting innovative, actionable solutions.”
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