Google joins South African AI Association

Google has been added to the list of founding partners and advisory board members of the South African Artificial Intelligence Association (SAAIA).

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the industry body said it would hold a formal launch event tomorrow, 19 July 2023, in partnership with the Tshwane University of Technology.

This comes after SAAIA announced in June that it planned to launch later that month.

In addition to Google, seven other organisations and government departments have come on board.

These include the Department of Communication and Digital Technologies, the AI Institute of South Africa, the University of Johannesburg, the Gauteng Tourism Authority, MICT SETA, Anza Capital, and Izwe.ai.

The complete list of SAAIA founding partners and advisory board members is reproduced below.

  • The Department of Communication and Digital Technologies
  • The AI Institute of South Africa
  • Tshwane University of Technology
  • University of Johannesburg
  • Google
  • Western Cape Government
  • Gauteng Tourism Authority
  • MICT SETA
  • Anza Capital
  • Michalsons
  • GIZ
  • Izwe.ai
  • ExploreAI
  • Cirrus AI
  • TinyML Foundation
  • Augmented Startups
  • Data Economy Policy Hub
  • Socially Acceptable
  • mLab
  • Zindi
  • The Technology Innovation Agency
  • Ecosystem.Ai
  • Webber Wentzel

Acting director of the TUT AI Hub, Prof Anish Kurien, said SAAIA’s launch comes at an opportune time.

“The DCDT launched the AI Institute and its first AI Hub at the University of Johannesburg on 30 November last year, followed by the TUT AI Hub on 24 March 2023,” Kurien said.

He explained that the AI Institute’s mandate is to ensure its developments take advantage of emerging digital technologies at a global scale.

“The recommendations made in setting up the AI Institute highlight the need for research and development to be conducted such that it contributes to the development needs of the country,” stated Kurien.

These recommendations also hinge on creating a positive social impact and said the AI Institute should focus on training society in AI-based technologies.

“This cannot be achieved unless the various stakeholders work together in achieving this common goal of creating greater impact on society through the ‘ethical’ use of AI,” said Kurien.

SAAIA said it would encourage stakeholders to adopt responsible AI for the commercial and societal benefit of the citizens of South Africa, with a primary focus on economic growth, trade, investment, equality, and inclusivity.

It said it would do this by uniting practitioners across commercial, government, academic, startup, and NGO sectors.

“From hype to a global reality, the SAAIA vision has been shaped by analysing the global and local landscape, identifying needs and filling the blanks with research,” said SAAIA founder Dr Nick Bradshaw (pictured).

“Our research has shown that AI and related automation technologies are currently impacting [over] 120 traditional industries globally, while creating new opportunities and challenges in timescales never seen before,” Bradshaw said.

“The speed of this disruption is faster than any other industrial revolution that has gone before it.”

SAAIA said ten key objectives underpin its mission:

  1. Serve as the voice of the industry
  2. Provide analysis and research to inform strategy and decision making
  3. Assist national, provincial, and local governments with policy making
  4. Unite buyers and suppliers to grow the economy
  5. Connect SMMEs to funding to create new companies and jobs
  6. Attract foreign direct investment to South Africa as the “4IR gateway” to Africa
  7. Help African “smart tech” companies access international markets
  8. Showcase the best of South African AI innovation and research
  9. Promote debate on inclusion, ethics, regulation, and standards
  10. Share best practices and education resources

Individual membership is free, and SAAIA promised members would gain access to resources, insights, and news throughout the year.

Members also receive discounts to join the association’s annual event, AI Expo Africa.


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Google joins South African AI Association