Information communication technology for development (ICT4D) research center in collaboration with European Alliance for Innovation (EAI) has successfully conducted its first international conference with a motto "ICT supported Science and Technology Innovations for Africa's Development". The conference has taken place on September 25-27. 2017 at Grand Resort and Spa in Bahir Dar /Ethiopia. The three-day event gathers participants from Africa, Europe, United States of America and Asia. The event was organized in two parts the first day was used as a workshop where four papers were presented and a heated panel discussion takes place with the main discussion idea on how ICT can change the socio-economic issues in Africa and how Africa can be a knowledge creator instead of consuming knowledge and technology created by none Africans. Professor Mamo Muche from Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa, a pan African scholar presented a panel discussion issue regarding the potential Africa has for innovation and the challenge and opportunities that African innovators faced. A keynote speaker by the name Alexandra Fraser from South Africa presented the experience mLab has in South Africa and how the lab used as the incubation center for young African innovators and entrepreneurs. Among the many challenges that African innovators faces; she enlisted the four main challenges; internet access, personal computers, working place and guidance on how to make their ideas a successful business. She demonstrated how the mLab in South Africa is solving these problems by creating a conducive environment for young innovators. The heated panel discussion raises a lot of issues about the impact ICT can make in Africa and the challenges faced to in implementing ICT. The panel discussion also raised gaps on how researchers can help in solving different ICT needs that Africa faces which might not be the case in other continents.
The second and third day of the conference was used to present different scholar research papers in the area of web and knowledge management, wireless communication, language processing technology, information system. Alongside the research paper presentation, four keynote speakers presented their work and experience. These distinguished guests were Professor Mamo Muche from South Africa, Professor Michael Gassier from the USA, Dr. Fisseha Mekuria from South Africa and Dr. Timnit Gebru from the USA. The talks from these distinguished keynote speakers were both motivational and eye openers for the audience. Their expertise in their own area of expertise makes them phenomenal to listen and learn from them.
A veteran professor at the South Africa's Tshwane University of Technology, professor Mamo Muche enlightened the audience with his deep knowledge of history, science, innovation and very entertaining sense of humor. The professor presented his speech entitled "Making Africa's Integrated Sustainable Development through New Innovation System". The talk was mainly about how Africans can come and work together to Africa's renaissance. He demonstrated how Africa needs a new creative and innovative ways to create an integrated sustainable development path by using the innovation system to approach now more at a time when the world is now going through exponential technology, digitalization and the knowledge economy that has earned the description of the 4th industrial revolution. He raised the potential Africans have for innovation and how to cultivate those opportunities to make sure Africa's future is bright and shiny.
Professor Michael Gassier, from the school of informatics and computing and the cognitive science program at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA, was another inspirational keynote speaker with a talk entitled " ICTs the linguistic digital divide, the democratization of knowledge". He demonstrated his deep understanding of language and its impact on civilization. He elaborated his quest for machine translation work for a computer to automatically translate the text from one language to the other. He focuses on highly under-resourced languages as content on the internet is dominated by a handful of languages while there are many languages being spoken in the world. For people who don't speak western languages highly need these translation tools to access the information, they can use to learn and grow as a society.
Dr. Fisseha Mekuria, a Chief research scientist from CSIR Meraka ICT Institute, South Africa presented his speech with a title "5G and industry 4.0 for emerging economies". The technology that is beyond reach and imagination for Africans doesn't look that way, as he and his team member at the research lab he leads are working hard to make Africa a creator of technology instead of a consumer of technology created by others. He emphasized how the recent call for industrialization of Africa needs a clear policy direction with respect to the upcoming 5th generation ICT ecosystem. He talked that the knowledge economy has to grow in Africa as it is one of the main issues that have to be addressed if we want a prosperous and developed continent.
The young scholar by the name Dr. Timinit Gebru a Ph.D. graduate from Stanford Artificial intelligence laboratory and a current postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft research center in New York presented her talk entitled "The importance of Artificial intelligence in Africa". She highlighted some of the interesting works she saw Africans are working to benefit from the use of Artificial intelligence before she dives deep into her work. She demonstrates her highly featured work to show how data mining from easily accessible satellite images can be used to gather information about the population without the need of spending billions of dollars for gathering data about the population. She even emphasized how very simple Artificial intelligence concepts without the need of complex and intensive research can be used to solve everyday problems by showing an example of computer vision application in sorting items by color. In her speech, she encouraged researchers to use the different benefit AI has to solve issues that are unique to Africa as a developing continent.