Africa We Want

Commonwealth AI consortium to empower small states and youth in new action .

The Commonwealth Artificial Intelligence Consortium (CAIC) have agreed on an action plan that seeks to leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to support small states, as well as empower the 1.5 billion young people, who are under the age of 30, in the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth AI consortium meets in New York on the sidelines of UNGA

The CAIC, which includes global tech firms, world-leading research institutions, non-profit organisations and at least six Commonwealth member countries who have stepped forward to champion AI innovation, convened its first-ever Steering Committee Meeting recently, in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. A special dialogue was also held with private sector partners.

The Steering Committee agreed on a robust action plan aimed at building the capacity to use AI within member countries to benefit from global innovations such as cloud computing and generative AI. It is envisioned that greater use of technology will result in economic growth, sustainability, improved health outcomes and job creation.

This includes a framework mapping out how different organisations and groups will contribute to delivery, as well as the launch of four working groups to drive action in the following core areas: policy, capacity-building, data and infrastructure as well as research and innovation.

Focus on AI for good


Addressing the gathering, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, KC, said:

“Our focus on AI for good is not a passing phase; it is our pathway to inclusive growth, sustainable development, and shared prosperity for all our member countries. Our commitment to empowering women with digital skills is not casual; it is an imperative.

“Our focus on young people is not token, it based on a hard-headed assessment of the Commonwealth’s demographic advantage, and an expression of our Charter… And our focus on small states is not peripheral, it is central – because 33 of the world’s small states are in the Commonwealth.”

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The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, addresses the gathering of the Commonwealth AI consortium
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, addresses the gathering of the Commonwealth AI consortium
The Chair of the CAIC Steering Committee, Rwanda’s Minister of ICT and Innovation, Hon. Paula Ingabire, reiterated her country’s commitment to championing ‘AI for good’ within the Commonwealth:

“Rwanda seeks to become Africa’s AI research hub and welcomes the private sector and academia to work with us to co-design AI-enabled solutions that will accelerate the continent’s social-economic development."

Co-chairing the meeting, the Director of Australia’s National AI Centre at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Stela Solar, stated:

“AI technologies are fast becoming integrated into the products and services we use at work, in life, and through education. Considering the scale of the AI-driven transformation, it’s important that our diverse voices across the Commonwealth community shape how AI is created, and benefit from the advancements and opportunities which are emerging.”

Executive Director of the Center for Open Innovation at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Professor Solomon Darwin, commended the progress of the Commonwealth AI consortium, adding:

“Excellent practical solutions were presented to the Steering Committee by several firms at the Commonwealth office. We look forward to making our objectives happen by October 2024.”

Champion Countries and Working Groups
Participants acknowledged the pivotal roles of Commonwealth AI champion countries, including The Gambia, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago. The ministers for Mauritius and The Bahamas further emphasised the importance of collaborative efforts to bridge the digital and AI divide, while advancing AI technology across the Commonwealth.

The newly-established CAIC working groups will focus on delivering concrete projects over the coming year, leading up to the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in October 2024 in Samoa.

Potential deliverables for supporting member states range from workforce development and upskilling, especially for young people, developing national data and AI strategies, shaping ethics and governance guidelines and countering misinformation, among others.

The CAIC seeks to deliver on the mandate set out in the last CHOGM, held in Rwanda in 2022, which reaffirmed countries’ commitment to equipping citizens with the access and skills necessary to fully benefit from innovations, new technology and opportunities in cyberspace.

Author: MANZI
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