GRAIN, a research network for responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) in favour of gender equality and inclusion

GRAIN, a network for responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) research for gender equality and inclusion While Artificial Intelligence is booming in the rest of the world, its development is still in its early stages in Sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, in the sub region, intelligent systems rely, for the most part, on incomplete, biased data based on human experience. As a result, their development generates new forms of gender inequality. In order to counter this trend, the Gender for Responsible Artificial Intelligence Network (GRAIN), initially known as the « Responsible Artificial Intelligence for Gender Equality » ( RAIGE), has been set up. Comprised of three African research organizations, namely the IPAR think tank, the Nigeria-based Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) and Sunbird AI based in Uganda, the network aims to advance gender equality and inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa through the development of intelligent systems through local and responsible deployment. At the initiative of the think tank IPAR, a workshop has been organized from June 28 to July 1, 2022, with the other members of the consortium, to initiate the discussion on the various aspects of the establishment of a network on Artificial Intelligence and gender inclusion in Africa. More specifically, the objectives of the workshop were to:

Establish the framework of the GRAIN network, based on the principles of inclusiveness and sustainability, with the 3 consortium institutions that will constitute its core;

Develop a responsible AI research agenda that works towards gender equality and inclusion (appropriate respect for vulnerable groups, such as women) and a framework for collaboration with GRAIN project institutions;

Validate the process and design of the call for proposals on AI and gender equality research projects. Facilitated by Ms. Sonja Betschart of WeRobotics (Switzerland), the network’s technical partner, the workshop was attended by Dr. Adedeji Adeniran of CSEA (Nigeria), Dr. Ernest Mwebaze of Sunbird AI (Uganda), and IPAR researchers involved in the project. These actors engaged in a sustained conversation on GRAIN’s strategy, vision and missions as well as on the network’s management, membership and governance model.

The strategy adopted for the network is heavily inspired by that of WeRobotics, a Swiss-based organization that supports the establishment of independent knowledge centers (Flying labs) around the world to leverage existing expertise in drones, data, robotics and AI This strategy is structured around three main axes: A network to create value and encourage other members to join; A decentralized power structure with a bottom-up organization; A network that will start from a collective learning, open sharing inspired by the Flying Labs model to create together an innovative and inclusive framework. The GRAIN network will have a dedicated research program and is expected to produce quality research agendas and papers. It will also create communication and advocacy tools for responsible AI for gender equality and inclusion. The name of the network was changed from Net-RAIGE (Responsible Artificial Intelligence and Gender Equality) to GRAIN (Gender for Responsible Artificial Intelligence Network) to better reflect its values and vision.
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