Development

Journey to Paris: Afrobytes and the Rise of African Industry

By Hruy Tsegaye

When one is travelling to Paris for business, in one of the high tourist months, there isn’t much to write about the wonderful city. In a foolish attempt to cover all the attractions, you will run like a crazy dog yet unfortunately Paris is not just big, Paris is just like ‘Quanta Firfir’ hiding countless good stuff behind her common veil. Eventually, the business traveller will give up settling on the common sites. I was the very same business traveller who gave up after The Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles and Le Marias.

Exhausted and frustrated, I decided to quit acting like a tourist and I accepted the gloomy fact that 4 days are not enough; I was in Paris for six days and I have tried to arrange my touristic days as follows: 2 days before my business conference and the following two days after the business conference. Yet, it was never enough.

Without exaggeration, or perhaps with little exaggeration, the 6 days I have in Paris were useless to quench my tourist-ish urge and I cannot say I was intimate with the dream city; maybe it was like a quick adultery! Despite my two-day relaxing trip to Germany, I was forced to concentrate all my focus in Paris towards my business.

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In Artificial Intelligence, Young Ethiopians Eye a Fertile Future

By: Thomas Lewton and Alice McCool

I DON’T think Homo sapiens-type people will exist in 10 or 20 years’ time,” Getnet Assefa, 31, speculates as he gazes into the reconstructed eye sockets of Lucy, one of the oldest and most famous hominid skeletons known, at the National Museum of Ethiopia. “Slowly the biological species will disappear and then we will become a fully synthetic species,” Assefa says.

Perception, memory, emotion, intelligence, dreams — everything that we value now — will not be there,” he adds.

Assefa is a computer scientist, a futurist, and a utopian — but a pragmatic one at that. He is founder and chief executive of iCog, the first artificial intelligence (AI) lab in Ethiopia, and a stone’s throw from the home of Lucy. iCog Labs launched in 2013 with $50,000 and just four programmers. Today, halfway up an unassuming tower block, dozens of software developers type in silence. Their desks are cluttered with electronic components and dismembered robot body parts, from a soccer-playing bot called Abebe to a miniature robo-Einstein. An earlier prototype of Sophia, a widely recognized humanoid robot developed by Hong Kong-based company Hanson Robotics (she appeared with late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon last year) is here too. Arguably the world’s most famous robot of her kind, Sophia’s software was partly developed here in Ethiopia’s capital.

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Ethiopia: U.S. Embassy Announces Solve IT! – A Nationwide Innovation Competition

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa is sponsoring a nationwide innovation competition, “Solve IT!” for Ethiopian youth. “Solve IT!” promotes STEM, entrepreneurship and encourages a new generation of young Ethiopians to solve problems in their communities using technology, software and hardware. The competition is implemented by the U.S. Embassy in collaboration with partners iCog Labs and Humanity+.

Solve IT! will involve nine city hubs in seven regional states and two city administrations: Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Jimma, Bahir Dar, Mekelle, Gambela, Semera, Hawassa and Jigjiga are the selected cities.

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Technology: The Last Frontier in Economic Challenges

By: Hruy Tsegaye

“Poverty can put you in a difficult state of mind, and a difficult state of mind can make it more difficult to escape poverty”. Jamele Rigolini.

1) The weak link in Economics

The science of Economics had always been a mystery for the layman, but the strange thing is Economics has never been an unambiguous discipline even for those who trained to be professional Economists. To make matters more complicated, regardless of our insight into economics, we still live by it!

Let us begin with the weak link of Economics principles. Most principles of economics are built on a simplified model of human behaviour, which the economists call the “homo economicus”. Although John Stuart Mill did not coin the term, the concept of the economic man was first introduced through his famous book, “The Principles of Political Economy”. Moreover, he even defines what the Economic Man is in his essay titled, “On the Definition of Political Economy; and on the Method of Investigation Proper to it”.  According to Mill, Political Economy perceives humans from one, a bit narrower, angle: “It is concerned with him [man] solely as a being who desires to possess wealth, and who is capable of judging the comparative efficacy of means for obtaining that end”. (Mill, 2000, p. 137)

It is a concept in many economic theories, which assumes humans as agents with narrowly well-defined self-interest and who have the ability to make judgments toward their subjectively defined ends. The most notable element in this assumption is that the choices of the economic man are marked by rationality. Hence, to most economists and economic principles, the economic man is a rational and profit motivated man.

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Artificial Intelligence for the Developing World

by: Ben Goertzel

The commercial value of artificial intelligence technology is now increasingly obvious across the board, with large companies in multiple sectors investing billions upon billions. But the importance of AI goes well beyond its direct financial value; there is a fundamental transformative potential here, which cuts at the core of human society, human life and human values.

Major governments and corporations around the world, alongside academic scientists and philosophers, are beginning to ask questions like: Will AIs eventually be more generally intelligent than humans? Will AIs eventually be conscious in the same sense as humans?   Will AIs and robots eventually take over all, or nearly all, human jobs? And will this “eventually” perhaps be, not centuries but only decades ahead?

And if we do have powerful, intelligent, self-aware AIs taking on most or all of the tasks now carried out by humans– what values will these AIs use to guide their actions? Will these values be human values, or something different? And if human values– what  variety of human values?

High-profile conferences have been convened to address these issues, e.g. the Asilomar AI conference held in California in early 2017 (organized by leaders of the US and UK tech and academic communities), and the UN conference on Beneficial AI, to be held in Europe in mid-2017. All this attention has not provided any definitive answers to these complex and thorny matters, but it has sharpened the issues involved and brought a wider variety of voices into the discussion.

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African Researcher Wants to Bring Teaching Tablet to Ethiopian Children

By Sanders Olson

African researchers have recently launched the YaNetu teaching tablet crowdfunding project. This effort aims to bring an AI based educational tablet to African children. The researchers hope to create:

– An Android-based teaching tablet for primary school age children in the developing world, with both offline and online applications

– A built-in curriculum, customized with local languages, designed to grow and develop over the years along with the child

– Artificial Intelligence systems, represented by human-like avatars, designed in collaboration with leading American AI researcher Dr. Ben Goertzel. Our AI avatars offer the student not only information and coaching, but also emotional and motivational feedback.

In an interview for Next Big Future with Sander Olson, iCOG researcher Hruy Tsegave describes why he believes that teaching tablets could be an effective and efficient method for providing large numbers of African children with a versatile and compelling teaching tool.

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The Ethiopian AI Geeks Building Cutting-Edge Robots

By: Marie Karas-Delcourt

ADDIS ABABA The black-and-white robot stopped and its eyes, two small red lights, suddenly lit up. Rotating about 90 degrees, it recognized the blue plastic ball a few centimeters away, came forward and kicked it.

“The robot is Chinese, but the processor is made in Ethiopia,” Getnet Aseffa explains. “A student developed it, and within a few months we will organize the first national football competition between robots, in the same vein as the International RoboCup tournament!”

Welcome to the iCog Labs experiment room in the heart of Addis Ababa’s university district. Getnet Aseffa, 28, is one of the brains behind the operation. After graduating in computer science in 2012, this avid reader of futurist author Ray Kurzweil co-created iCog with the help of American researcher Ben Goertzel. It is the first Ethiopian research and development laboratory specializing in artificial intelligence.

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Serious Research And Development On Artificial Intelligence Is Happening In Ethiopia

By: Erick Vateta

iCop-ai-business-ethiopia

Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing because human beings want most of their thinking done by machines. Ethiopia known for its strong army and beautiful women, but the country is also a home of innovators. The country has placed much emphasis on computer science. However, as the country celebrates their achievement in tech, an artificial intelligence R&D caught fire in Addis Ababa.

The country has many universities and polytechnics that place high emphasis on technology. Over 30 official universities and 130 polytechnics have tech related units. Ministry of Science and Technology established its own university and a $250 million dollar tech park in 2012. Techonomy reports that about 2% of its citizens can access the internet, 4% of Ethiopian children get as far as the equivalent of 9th grade, child labor is at 27% and early marriages is 41%.

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The Upside of Artificial Intelligence Development

By Stephen F. DeAngelis

The Upside of AI

In “Practical Artificial Intelligence Is Already Changing the World,” I promised to write a follow-on article that discussed why Kevin Kelly (@kevin2kelly), the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former IBM employee and strategic advisor to Citigroup, are optimistic about the future of artificial intelligence (AI). In that article I noted that some pundits believe that AI poses a grave threat to humanity while other pundits believe that AI systems are going to be tools that humans can use to improve conditions around them. I also wrote that it would be foolish to predict which school of thought is correct this early in the game.

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Ethiopia’s Tech Economy On the Rise

Despite setbacks, Ethiopia’s tech economy has been making strides, luring entrepreneurs from throughout Africa and gaining international recognition. 

This is due to a mix of increased government support for ICT development and the establishment of start-up incubators and hubs that are creating an ideal landscape for the tech industry to grow.

By Steven Blum

iceaddis ‏co-working space.  Image Courtesy of eLearning Africa

iceaddis ‏co-working space. Image Courtesy of eLearning Africa

Now home to 1,000 members, incubator iceaddis is the first of its kind in Ethiopia, describing itself as: “Collaborative work spaces where aspiring young entrepreneurs, ICT driven individuals, techies, youth and creative individuals can come together to receive business and life skill training, prototyping, technology transfer and enhance their productivity and, ultimately, form viable and sustainable business plans for the future.”

Easily drawing comparisons to other tech hubs in the region, like Nairobi’s iHub – which now has over 16,000 members – or Uganda’s Hive Colab, iceaddis grew organically, starting with small events and workshops.

According to iceaddis member Markos Lemma, in Ethiopia “there is high potential for techies to develop applications and technical solutions.”

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