There is presently a clarion call for the use of Artificial Intelligence. Even the Holy Father in his message for this year’s World Communication Day harped on the central importance of this current phenomenon. The Correspondent of RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA based in London has come across an African student in the United Kingdom who is researching Artificial Intelligence. Our Correspondent has put in one question to this scholar and his answer is mind-boggling. Responding to the question from our Correspondent on how Africa as a whole can benefit from the Ongoing Artificial Intelligence program, this UK-based Nigerian Catholic Scholar channeled his response to an African Leader whom he charged to Fix Africa to Benefit from Artificial Intelligence.

The report has it that a Nigerian Catholic Priest and doctoral researcher in the United Kingdom (UK) has challenged scholars, leaders, and policymakers across Africa to develop the political will to “fix the continent” failure to which he says the citizenry would miss the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In his keynote address at the International Multidisciplinary Scientific Conference that was organized by the Institute for Leadership and Development Communication (ILDC), Fr. Justine John Dyikuk lamented that African countries lag while the rest of the world is reaping from the benefits of AI.

“The grim reality is, while the world is thinking, talking, and doing AI, Africa is battling in the jungle of survival,” Fr. Dyikuk said at the Thursday, April 25 conference that was organized under the theme, “Artificial Intelligence, Communication, Development and Sustainability in Africa.”

He said that adopting AI is a long haul for many African countries that he said are still battling high levels of illiteracy, with many children unable to go to school.

“It is difficult for African scholars to convince the world that we are ready to adopt AI given that in 2023, there were 12 million out-of-school children in sub-Saharan Africa alone,” he said.

The doctoral student in Journalism, Media, and Communication at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow in the UK charged presenters to suggest ways that AI can drive development and sustainability “given the effects of colonialism and brain drain across the continent.”

Africa is also experiencing “the tyranny of neo-colonialism”, the Nigerian Catholic Priest said, adding that the situation creates a leeway for brain drain that makes it an uphill task for Africa to level up with the West in AI technologies.

“Sadly, the world does not take Africa seriously in terms of development and sustainability although the continent takes the lion’s share of donations from the United Nations and its ancillary agencies,” he said.

Citing figures from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which indicate that 600 million Africans live without access to electricity, he lamented that “Africa is bedeviled by underdevelopment often associated with authoritarian regimes, electoral malpractices, bad governance and external influences.”

The Nigerian scholar said that underdevelopment makes embracing AI a huge challenge for African countries.  Speakers at the conference explored ways in which AI can contribute to sustainable development across the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent.

Fr. Dyikuk described the theme of the conference as “thought-provoking and timely”, and termed AI “the ability of a computer or robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligible beings.”

AI, he explained, “takes advantage of algorithms, mathematical or arithmetical figures/elements to improve or predict human actions.”

“At its core, AI deals with astonishing innovations, exciting discoveries, and upsetting or disorienting equations in sound/music, speech, video, and pictorial materials as well as computer operations,” he said.

The member of the Clergy of Nigeria’s Bauchi Catholic Diocese categorized AI into three variants: Weak AI, which is used in common day life focuses on one task at a time and has limits; Strong AI deployed by academics which understands, learns and fulfills any intellectual endeavor; and Super AI which he said is still at a conceptual level, and “supersedes human intelligence as it is envisaged to perform any task better than human beings.”

Fr. Dyikuk said that much as AI assists scholars and media workers across the continent, for the African, the human person is at the heart of every communicative act.

“Although the concept of AI is foreign to the African, the human brain, mind and heart which are the engine rooms for initiating any AI technology enjoy pride of place,” he said, insisting that from the African standpoint, communication includes verbal and non-verbal cues of relating with fellow human beings in a way that “encoding and decoding are carried out in a fraternal manner between participants and feedback is elicited.

According to Fr. Dyikuk, four areas to watch out for especially in Africa given the novel nature of AI, and its seeming negative impact on society, including what Pope Francis, in his Message of his 58th World Day of Social Communications Day message titled “Artificial Intelligence and the Wisdom of the Heart: Towards a Fully Human Communication”, calls cognitive pollution of false narratives and deep fake, creating groupthink which polarizes public opinion, social isolation which promotes social integration and the aggression of being like God without God.

He charged participants to figure out “how effective communication and sustainable development can be achieved amid a seeming Western AI technology that invades people’s privacy and promotes crass individualism.”

For effective utilization of AI, he urged governments, policymakers, academics, Civil Society Organisations and the media to tackle exploitation and inequality, meet the individual and common needs of all, provide correct information and ensure greater freedom for all through justice, development and peace.

The three-day conference features papers on digital citizenship education, artificial intelligence-driven cultural heritage tourism in West Africa, religious imperialism in the age of AI, civic engagement, public participation and trust in digital space, e-governance, misinformation in health communication, the impact of storytelling and robot journalism revolution amongst others.