It is poised that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us. The advent of this revolution presents governments with an opportunity to lead innovation and at the same time create an environment that enables innovation to thrive.

One such innovation is artificial intelligence (AI). AI is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is based on the principle that human intelligence can be defined in a way that a machine can easily mimic it and execute tasks, from the most simple to those that are even more complex. The goals of artificial intelligence include learning, reasoning, and perception.AI is used across different industries such as healthcare, transport and finance and is constantly evolving to benefit different industries and sectors as technology evolves. As technology advances, previous benchmarks that defined AI also become outdated and are therefore reengineered to suit the current technology.  

AI can be as simple as encompassing a single-task or as strong as carrying on tasks that are more complex and human-like. Algorithms often play a very important part in the structure of AI, where simple algorithms are used in simple applications, while more complex ones help frame strong artificial intelligence. Kenya has not been left behind and has been making strides towards a comprehensive strategy to encourage and adopt emerging technologies such AI. The use of AI technologies could be transformative across several key sectors in Kenya, including healthcare, agriculture, education and government services. These sectors in turn play a key roll in meeting the subsets of the Big four (4) agenda.

Towards this end, the Kenya Government created a Blockchain & Artificial Intelligence task force in February 2018. The first goal of the task force was to provide the government with recommendations about how to harness the emerging technologies of blockchain and AI. Other areas of interest include the application of blockchain and AI to public service delivery, cybersecurity, financial inclusion, and election processes. The taskforce will also provide the roadmap to the contextualization of the application of these emerging technologies in the areas of financial inclusion, cybersecurity, land tilting, election process, single digital identity and overall public service delivery.

Some of the hurdles that Kenya will need to overcome in an effort to adopt the new technology including AI are:

Firstly like most African countries, Kenya’s records are historically hard copy and placed in volumes of books, files and folios. The first hurdle therefore for Kenya is to invest in the infrastructure that will be necessary to narrow the digital divide by digitize its records across the board. This will be a challenge for the Government as the laws and infrastructure in place do not accommodate digitization of records. Sectors such as the lands registries/offices and the companies registry have made strides in investing in the digital infrastructure for better service delivery. The digitization needs to remain current with the technology in place. AI is dependent on technology which is constantly changing. As technology changes AI adopts to support such change in technology. In addition, implementation of the digitization process needs to be timely to avoid further technological changes that will necessitate further investments. In this regards, Kenya should do market research and benchmarking to ensure the technology fronted for digitizing will be useful for a longer time period.

Secondly the Government needs to establish policies and legislation that balance regulation and innovation. Currently there is no legislation with regards to AI. In formulating legislation to govern AI, the Government would need to balance between protecting its citizens and promoting private sector innovation. Key concerns with regards to AI include data privacy, threat of weaponization and how far the AI technology would reach. Adopting new technology such as AI will greatly benefit Kenya in reduction of transaction costs, improvement of public/administrative government service delivery, improve agriculture and food security, improve health and drug safety, expand manufacturing, improve land titling, improve learning outcomes through more personalized/virtual lessons and many more. Kenya stands to benefit from these and many with proper implementation of AI technology and legislature.

For the legal fraternity, advances in technology and more so AI is poised to take over how we manage law firms, contract drafting and negotiating, interactions and transactions with governmental bodies providing firms with an opportunity to streamline their legal processes for more efficient, timely and effective legal service delivery.

Insights by Judy Kabubu who is a Principal Associate in the Banking and Finance and Real Estate practice areas. Her areas of specialisation include banking law and securitisation, property law and conveyancing, corporate and commercial work, trademark law and succession matters.


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