The University of Johannesburg is making artificial intelligence (AI) courses compulsory in all qualifications offered at the learning institution.
The news came from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies’ AI Institute launch, for which it partnered with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).
“The study of Artificial Intelligence is being made a compulsory course in all qualifications in the University of Johannesburg to empower its graduates to advance in all areas of work,” UJ Vice-Chancellor and Principal Tshilidzi Marwala said.
At the launch, communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the AI Institute of South Africa (AIISA) would help the country’s youth avoid unemployment and become job creators in their own space.
She specified that the initiative would have two hubs in South Africa, one at TUT and the other at UJ’s Johannesburg Business School.
“Their hubs will have demonstrated an array of initiatives that [through which] they have grasped the implementation of AI as a tool for economic advancement in various sectors,” Ntshavheni said.
“The ultimate goal of the institute is the creation of a network of AI hubs linked to key catalytic projects across the country and centres of excellence across the continent.”
She explained that the project involves consolidating work already underway rather than building it from the ground up.
She said universities in South Africa would no longer churn out graduates that “are going to walk the streets of unemployment”.
“They are going to churn out graduates that are going to make a meaningful contribution in society and become job creators in their own space because they would have learned about AI,” Ntshavheni added.
She also explained that each university hub would work in line with its areas of strength.
“Professor Maluleke has explained some of the areas in terms of TUT, which includes automotive manufacturing, transport, tourism, telecommunications, farming, [and] healthcare sectors,” Ntshavheni said.
“The UJ hub will focus on industries such as the value chain of manufacturing, retail, agriculture and farming, digital mining, the energy sector, fintech, digital banking, digital identity, and the criminal justice system.”
Both higher learning institutes’ vice-chancellors say they are on board with the initiative and believe it is critical to South Africa’s future.
Marwala, a Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (PC4IR) member, said the initiative aligns with the commission’s goals.
He said that he and his colleagues in the PC4IR began to establish recommendations to assist the government in taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital industrial revolution in 2019.
“It was apparent that the establishment of an artificial intelligence (AI) institute sat at the heart of our strategy,” Marwala said.
“The recommendation to develop the institute was centred around a need to establish a common base to focus on the application of AI to health, agriculture, finance, mining, manufacturing, and government alongside regulations.”
“TUT had no choice but to heed the minister’s call that we join hands with the department and UJ in the establishment of one of the most significant institutes established in this country in recent years, namely the AIISA,” TUT vice-chancellor Tinyiko Maluleke said.
“This key institute will become the nerve centre from which we shall shape our connected future as a country. A digital future which beckons all countries of the world.”