Governing responsible artificial intelligence and data in the Middle East and North Africa
The digital transformation of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, presents both opportunities and challenges. The rapid but uneven pace of the changes is exacerbating digital divides and entrenched inequalities and negatively impacting vulnerable population groups that do not have quality access or digital skills, such as women, migrants, and youth. These issues are aggravated by the difficult economic and social conditions in the region, new instabilities wrought by the pandemic, and complex regional politics. Neither the governments of the concerned countries nor their sizable young, educated populations are prepared for the impact of digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) on the future of work, education, or governance.
IDRC-supported research indicates that data resources in the region are scarce and suggests that there is a need for better, more inclusive data governance and access. There is an absence of networking and connectedness and a lack of meaningful discussion about the challenges of AI and its governance. Processes for evidence and data to support policy formulation are also weak, while the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems for data and AI are underdeveloped and lack support and incentives. Over the longer term, there is a need for broader, deeper data, and digital literacy and education.
The aims of this project are to foster and build knowledge and discussions around responsible AI and data governance in the MENA region, develop networks of expertise, raise the profile of ongoing efforts, and influence the governance of these technologies in the region. The project will be grounded in a focus on well-being, protection of privacy and intimacy, equity, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability, and will facilitate public policies that promote the inclusive benefits of AI that will serve the population, while mitigating its potential costs and risks.