IGF 2023 WS #317 African AI: Digital Public Goods for Inclusive Development

Monday, 9th October, 2023 (08:45 UTC) - Monday, 9th October, 2023 (09:45 UTC)
WS 5 – Room B-2

Global Digital Governance & Cooperation
Harmonising Global Digital Infrastructure

Organizer 1: Boniface Gathee, Office of the Data Protection Commissioner
Organizer 2: Sumaiyah Omar, Lawyers Hub

Speaker 1: Susan Waweru, Government, African Group
Speaker 2: Bobina Zulfa, Civil Society, African Group
Speaker 3: Irura Mark, Intergovernmental Organization, African Group


Lilian Diana Awuor Wanzare, Government, African Group

Online Moderator

Mwenda Gitonga, Government, African Group


Sumaiyah Omar, Civil Society, African Group


Round Table - 60 Min

Policy Question(s)

1.How can AI contribute to the development of Digital Public Goods in Africa? 2. What are the ethical considerations regarding privacy, data security and inclusivity associated with deploying AI-powered solutions in the public sector? 3.What design and policy recommendations are imminent in the nexus between innovation and regulation?

What will participants gain from attending this session? 1.Acquire first-hand and on the ground knowledge of developing and deploying localized AI solutions 2.Greater awareness and understanding of how AI is used as a DPG on the African continent 3.Insights into hands-on use cases that showcase best practices, challenges, and lessons learnt from the deployment of AI in public sector and/or for public benefit, including tools and toolkits 4.Learn and critically reflect on how. when deploying AI, competing interests can be reconciled, inefficiencies avoided, and citizens’ rights protected. 5.Identify collaboration partners for knowledge exchange and further engagement.


A number of African countries are building upon emerging technologies like AI for the improvement of public service delivery and the development of Digital Public Goods (DPG). DPGs refer to open-source software, data and content that are freely available, accessible and can be used and reused. Moreover, the use of such a good by one person does not diminish its availability to others. DPGs have been identified by the UN Secretary-General's Roadmap for Digital Cooperation as key instrument to help attain the SDGs. The opportunity of AI to promote and enhance the DPG ecosystems of low- and middle-income countries is not without challenges and risks. In this workshop, we will discuss five AI use cases from five African nations. We will explore the tangible benefits, challenges as well as the lessons learnt in developing and deploying AI in the public sector for public benefit. The following overview provides a glimpse into the examples that will be discussed: (i)South Africa: Using AI and ML in Earth Observation to improve yield production and efficiency in precision agriculture – hard lessons learnt from a unique pilot (ii)Kenya: The up- and downsides and ethical considerations associated with deploying an AI-enabled conversational chatbot that informs citizens about their data and digital rights (iii)Uganda: The role of AI in last mile energy access, impact of these solutions on the communities they serve and related challenges and opportunities (iv)Ghana: An early disease detection model for cashew crops to inform farmers about potential supply chain risks (v)Rwanda: COVID-19 chatbot of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre assisting in symptom identification and awareness raising on safe health practices Through the lens of the aforementioned use cases, the opportunities and challenges that are currently being experienced in not only implementing AI but also shaping AI policies in Africa can be understood practically.

Expected Outcomes

1. A comprehensive report summarizing the comparative knowledge on the cross-border implementation of Digital Public Goods (DPGs) in East, West, and South Africa. 2. Policy brief for policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders on ensuring responsible and ethical utilization of AI. 3. A practical guide with tips and methodologies for localizing AI DPGs for context, language and fitness for purpose. This is aimed at creating operational awareness and know-how to be exchanged for implementing DPG.

Hybrid Format: How will you facilitate interaction between onsite and online speakers and attendees? •The session will be moderated in person and the moderator will engage both the onsite and online speakers by asking questions and inviting onsite and online participants to contribute to the discussion by making statements. A note-taker will summarize the key points on a virtual whiteboard for online participants How will you design the session to ensure the best possible experience for online and onsite participants? •Online interaction in this session will be facilitated by incorporating in real-time the thoughts and questions of the audience expressed in writing in the chat or Q&A function of the online platform provided for the session. Complementary online tools/platforms you plan to use to increase participation and interaction •Usage of IGF Official Tool •Usage of online polling tool to engage audience to gather inputs for session •Online whiteboard tool