Microsoft Launches Policy Innovation Centre in South Africa

Microsoft has officially launched its second Policy Innovation Centre (PIC) in Africa at the University of Pretoria. The PICs are state-of-the-art physical centre designed to bring together various stakeholders from government, academia, industry and civil society to share experiences and best practices to foster innovative policy dialogue and recommendations across various industries.

The PICs are based at, and managed by, partner academic institutions with strong academics and experts who are leaders in their field and region, and who will also collaborate closely with colleagues across the Middle East, Africa (MEA) and the world. This is to ensure that all policy dialogues and engagements at the PIC factor in the local policy dynamics in the region but are also able to apply international expertise and know how to address the various policy challenges that exist.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us – innovations in technology are changing the way we live and how we interact. The benefits are endless, having the potential to transform businesses, countries and make way for innovations for consumers and create economic opportunities. Challenges and issues that emerge can be effectively addressed by providing a space, through the PIC, that enables collaboration and discussion.

One such challenge is enabling ethical and positive use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Africa which can be addressed through collaboration and engagement. AI has the potential to solve some of the most pressing challenges that impact Africa. By enabling intelligent automation of the workforce, augmenting both human and physical capital, and driving innovation, AI is set to unlock huge potential across the continent. If governments can successfully navigate the challenges, AI can be a driver of growth, development, and democratisation in core sectors like healthcare, agriculture and public sector applications like financial services and education.

“If Africa can take decisive steps to overcome its unique challenges, it will catch up to those countries that have already taken steps to advance AI. The success of AI in Africa will depend on the ability of governments to foster collaboration among all stakeholders – smart partnerships are everything. Facilities such as the PIC can help us facilitate robust conversations and thinking that will inevitably reshape the way we do business in the future”, Lillian Barnard, Managing Director at Microsoft South Africa.

Through the PIC Microsoft South Africa through has already developed a future-facing white paper entitled, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Africa: An Opportunity for Growth, Development, and Democratisation, Compiled by Access Partnership in conjunction with the University of Pretoria which was released during Science Forum South Africa 2018 (SFSA2018) over 12-14 December 2018. The white paper takes a deep dive into how AI can, and will, change the way we live and work across the continent, but with a strong focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
PICs are designed with collaboration as the driving philosophy behind their work. They are equipped with state-of-the-art conferencing facilities to enable international dialogue and skills-sharing, not only from MEA but from around the world.

Microsoft has worked with leading regional and international organisations to ensure differing viewpoints are shared and that a healthy dialogue takes place. The outcome is a discussion and recommendations that are both inclusive and holistic.