Bring Africa onto “big data” radar screen, says UJ Artificial Intelligence expert

The African continent is conspicuously absent in the Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by Big Data, said Prof Bhekisipho Twala on Tuesday 1 August 2017 at a public lecture at the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

Prof Twala is Professor in Artificial Intelligence and Statistical Science and Director of UJ’s Institute for Intelligent Systems.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is described by Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, as characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.

Prof Twala observed that this Revolution is driven by Artificial Intelligence, connected systems and devices, as well as large datasets.

“While the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers incredible insight into global society, the African continent is not benefiting in the same manner. The traditional large datasets such as social media, which capture local events and perspectives well elsewhere, only offer poor analysis results on the African continent,” said Prof Twala.

However, using technologies such as machine translation and focusing those on Africa, it is possible to bring the continent onto the Big Data ‘radar screen’, he concluded.

In 2016, Prof Twala received the prestigious annual TW Kambule-NSTF Award for his work building on diverse expertise in making decisions given incomplete information, and utilising Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques for predicting and for the classification of tasks in several fields such as banking and finance, insurance, biomedical, robotics, psychology, software engineering and most recently in electrical and electronic engineering science.

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