An African Perspective on Gender and Artificial Intelligence Needs African Data and Research

Research on the gender dimensions of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other frontier technologies in Africa is still in its infancy. Compared to other world regions, Africa has little or no gender-disaggregated data on digital access, skills and participation in the digital economy. There is also limited quantitative and qualitative research on related issues such as: barriers to gender digital equality, the impact of social structures on women’s career paths in innovation, science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics and the effect of crosscutting demographic characteristics on people’s experience of technology. Without representative data and research to drive evidence based policies, Africa cannot realise the full benefits of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies as envisaged in the African Union’s Digital Transformation Strategy. The implications of these data deserts are becoming more dire as African countries are encouraged to swiftly attempt towards transitioning to 4IR technologies, such as AI for national development and future post-Pandemic resilience, without consideration of the unintended consequences. With their immense appetite for and dependence on big data for decision-making, AI systems have the potential to exacerbate existing gender inequalities or even create new disparities if the knowledge that informs AI design is not representative of African realities.