Data and AI for development. Takeaways from the OECD-AU AI Dialogue


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The world is currently undergoing rapid and unprecedented change due to the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI). International AI governance is increasingly becoming a vital policy priority for national governments, intergovernmental organizations, and various stakeholders. Global cooperation is crucial for effectively managing the risks posed by AI and leveraging its benefits.

Against this backdrop, the UK government sponsored and participated in a dialogue between two key bodies in AI policy: the OECD and the African Union (AU).

The OECD-African Union (AU) AI Dialogue hybrid event took place on March 5-6, 2024, at the OECD Headquarters in Paris. The closed-door dialogue brought together representatives from the OECD, AU AI Working Group, the AU Commission, the UK government, along with experts from the Datasphere Initiative, PARIS21, UN Global Pulse Uganda, and the Data Economy Policy Hub.

The event provided insights into the AU’s work on developing their Artificial Intelligence Continental Strategy for Africa (AACS), along with numerous other African AI initiatives. This timely discussion facilitated the exchange of national and regional perspectives, paving the way for collaborative endeavors.

The agenda tackled critical issues on surrounding AI governance, emphasizing the imperative of fostering collaboration among stakeholders and addressing shared challenges. Lorrayne Porciuncula, Executive Director of the Datasphere Initiative, provided insights on the work of the Datasphere Initiative in fostering multistakeholder collaboration and policy innovation during the session “Data and AI for development”.

This blog summarizes key highlights from her intervention.

Facilitating innovation through multistakeholder collaboration

Speakers from PARIS21, the OECD, UN Global Pulse Uganda, and Open Data Watch presented concrete projects where data and AI are advancing progress across multiple sectors.

Lorrayne underscored the importance of fostering community engagement and empowerment, by involving communities in Africa in the design and implementation of data and AI projects. These technologies can drive progress, particularly in dynamic regions like Africa and Latin America.

Illustrating the Datasphere Initiative’s dedication to responsible data governance and innovation, she emphasized the central role of community-driven innovation. She elaborated on the organization’s mission to foster such innovation through collaboration among multiple stakeholders and experimentation with policy and technical data-sharing solutions.

“Central to our efforts is the belief in community engagement. By involving communities in Africa in the design and implementation of our projects, we have witnessed firsthand the power of community-driven innovation,” she remarked.

Cross-border data governance solutions in Africa

Sandboxes can help bridge the gap between stakeholders and sectors by creating collaborative and safe environments to experiment with new uses, capabilities, and means of governing data against concrete challenges through a multistakeholder approach. Although the adoption of sandboxes is gaining traction in Africa, there is a need for capacity building, sharing of best practices, and active testing to fully harness their potential in addressing cross-border data issues on the continent.

Lorrayne shared key outcomes from the Africa Forum on Sandboxes for Data, a Datasphere Initiative project building a pan-African community to enable innovative cross-border data governance solutions.

“Through the Africa Forum on Sandboxes for Data, we have built a pan-African community focused on regulatory and operational sandboxes. This platform has been crucial in allowing safe experimentation with data and AI solutions, tailored to meet Africa’s unique development needs,” she said.

Scaling successful sandbox models and fostering cross-sector, cross-border partnerships are crucial for maximizing their impact, driving innovation, and sharing knowledge across regions.

Additionally, Lorrayne detailed how efforts amongst organizations to implement inclusive and participatory regulatory sandboxes could contribute to empowering communities and individuals to draw more value over data.

Speakers advocated for the adoption of sandbox environments to test and refine AI-driven solutions in a controlled, regulatory-compliant manner, promoting innovation while safeguarding public interests.

Call to action

The session concluded with a call to policymakers to embrace innovative methodologies such as sandboxes and foster collaboration across diverse sectors and institutions to develop impactful data and AI policies. 

By leveraging collective expertise and cooperation, stakeholders can effectively navigate the evolving AI landscape while maximizing its potential benefits for society.

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