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AI to increase participation of disabled persons in digital economy

Kenya and Africa as a whole could see a significant increase in jobs and access to online services among marginalized groups such as Persons with Disabilities through artificial intelligence according to experts attending the Connected Africa Summit 2024.

While digitization of government services has been backed to help cut cost and enhance service delivery, there is a potential to risk of widening the access gaps among marginalized groups hence the need to incorporate assistive and generative AI in the online services.

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According to ICT Authority Director of Shared Services Michael Odhiambo, there is already increased uptake of AI chatbots among government agencies in a bid to ease access of online services by persons with disabilities.

The authority is further considering the development of multilanguage models which will help enhance reach of government services in local languages for users.

“There is a trial we are doing with Business Registration Services to see how to model mother tongue as well so that our people back in rural areas can also try and interact with this technology and try and make sense out of it. As government we focus on delivery services and now we have taken these services to the digital platforms.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 2.5 billion people worldwide are in need of assistive technology products, a figure that is projected to rise to 3.5 billion by 2050.

“There part of the population which say when you take these services online, you have discriminated against us because either I cannot see, or I cannot hear so how are we catering for these people and we then foresee AI coming in to be a potential use case for this,” added Odhiambo.

Kenya also targets to use AI in analyzing the large amount of data in order to guide policy direction and decision making. Currently, more than 19,000 government services have been taken online.

“As we embrace the fourth industrial revolution, AI emerges as a catalyst for innovation, driving efficiencies across several industries and creating new opportunities for an inclusive growth,” stated John Tanui, ICT and Digital Economy Principal Secretary.

Nonetheless, there have been calls for close collaborations in harmonizing AI related policies and regulations in Africa to ensure ethical use of the technology.

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