Science and Technology

Strengthening African Machine Learning

Hundreds of delegates attended the 2018 Deep Learning Indaba, held at the University of Stellenbosch

About 700 members of Africa’s artificial intelligence community are convening in Kenya, from Saturday, for a for a week of teaching, research, information exchange and debate around state-of-the-art machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The Deep Learning Indaba is the annual meeting of the African machine learning community. This year, the event is taking place at Kenyatta University in Nairobi from 25 to 31 August 2019. The initiative is supported by the Department of Science and Innovation, and a South African delegation made up of 30 students and 10 lecturers will participate.

The Deep Learning Indaba is intended to strengthen machine learning in Africa, along with initiatives such as the IndabaX programme and the Kambule Doctoral and Maathai Impact Awards.

“We work towards the vision of Africans becoming critical contributors, owners and shapers of the coming advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Dr Vukosi Marivate, Group Leader for Data Science at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

The Deep Learning Indaba has grown in the past two years. In 2017 there were 300 participants from 22 African countries. Last year, 550 people attended the Indaba, with representatives from 35 African countries.

Last year’s event was hosted by South Africa at Stellenbosch University. Held under the theme “Masakhane”, it emphasised the use of technology to solve societal challenges.

Speaking about the 2018 Indaba, Dr Marivate said, “The range of applications varied vastly, with some notable implementations in speech and language translation, and smartphones being used to diagnose diabetic retinopathy and identify diseased plants. There were also numerous start-ups that saw the commercial value of the tools.”

Phenyo Moletsane, a data scientist who attended last year’s event, described the Indaba as an informative and insightful experience, that allowed her to learn and improve her skills in deep learning.

“The tutorials and lectures were all helpful and I have no doubt that I will use what I’ve learnt in my research. I also networked with some of Africa’s brightest minds, learnt from them and got some really interesting ideas,” said Moletsane.

As South Africa prepares for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it is critical that the country produces a generation of knowledge workers that can participate in this new technological age.

Source: Department: Science and Technology