Researchers at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have set up an artificial intelligence hub, which is aimed at addressing the numerous developmental challenges facing the country.
The areas include agriculture, health, and transportation, among others.
Speaking to Citi News, Prof. Jerry John Kponyo, the principal investigator and the scientific director of the project, noted that the researchers’ intervention in agriculture, for instance, will help improve yield and make the work of farmers much easier.
He said the Responsible Artificial Intelligence Lab, RAIL for short, is a multidisciplinary lab which is focused on using artificial intelligence to respond to developmental challenges as far as the sub-region is concerned.
“If you look at the sub-region, areas like agriculture, health and transportation are things that need some level of intervention. The fourth industrial revolution is actually an AI revolution, which requires the use of AI to respond to some of these challenges. So at RAIL, what we seek to do is to build capacity with reference to the use of artificial intelligence to respond to agriculture. Without agriculture, the yield could have been minimal, but the argument is that, by introducing technology in agriculture, it is a trillion-dollar enterprise.”
“What we want to do is to develop solutions that are at the level of farmers such that if they are able to take it up, we can be able to respond to the issue of food security. Also, issues in relation to the ability to predict yield, the ability to identify diseases, and the ability to do precision agriculture where in irrigation, we identify what the needs of crops are, and be able to automate the system such that they are able to give the crops exactly what they need to improve yield”.
As Ghana’s healthcare system is bedevilled with a number of challenges, Prof. Jerry John Kponyo says they are seeking to use artificial intelligence to address the problems associated with not having enough doctors to correspond with the number of patients.
“Under health, we recognize that in healthcare, there is a deficit, as far as the number of doctors that can attend to patients is concerned. What we do is to use artificial intelligence to make the work of doctors easier”.
He also outlined how the project seeks to help resolve some of the transportation-related challenges confronting Ghanaians.
“Regarding transportation and others, moving from one place to the other, takes a very long time. By introducing artificial intelligence to it, we are able to reduce the amount of time that is required”.
KNUST is thus coming up with more postgraduate students to train more persons in the area.
“In the area of AI, we realized that AI can drive the economy, but there’s a deficiency as far as skills is concerned. We don’t have a lot of people who have knowledge of artificial intelligence. So, what this lab seeks to do is to mount programmes; short courses, MPHIL, and PhD programmes to build capacity so that within the sub-region when people want to know more about artificial intelligence, KNUST and the artificial intelligence Lab are where they would be able to build capacity,” Dr Jerry John Kponyo added.
The researchers also want the private sector and the government to support them.
“We cannot work in isolation. AI is a driver, but it is important that we are supported by the government and the private sector. I recognize that AI is built on data, so the ability to even generate afrocentric data sets require some level of investment, and this we want government to come in. The other issue has to do with having a regulatory framework within which to operate artificial intelligence, and this we want to do collaborating with government, the ministry of communication and digitalization and other stakeholders,” Prof Jerry John Kponyo appealed.