AI is the future. There’s no time for academic laggards
AI has become a major game-changer in various industries and sectors, from healthcare and finance to transportation, education and all other areas of human endeavours. In this fast-changing world, it is important to keep up with the latest technological advancements and not get left behind.
Thus, it is essential for everyone, especially those in higher education such as students, teachers, researchers and educational policy-makers, to leverage AI tools for educational and work-related purposes. With AI, we can achieve far more than we ever thought possible through digitalisation and digitisation.
Thus, from the incorporation of technologies including AI into teaching and learning in higher education institutions, to automating repetitive tasks, processing large amounts of data and making predictions and recommendations, these processes bring to bear the capability of AI to help us work more efficiently, make better decisions, and ultimately achieve our goals faster in more efficient ways.
However, while AI has been embraced in many developed countries, the same cannot be said for developing countries, particularly Africa.
Two theoretical perspectives
Despite the potential benefits that AI offers, many African countries have yet to embrace this technology fully.
This situation finds roots in Richard Auty’s (1994) resource curse theory which is also termed the paradox of plenty theory. This is explained in terms of the inability of many people in Africa and other developing economies to appreciate and leverage the power of emerging technologies for their benefit.
Another theoretical lens to look at this situation is Rogers’ (2003) diffusion of innovation theory. This theory explains that there are five groups of adopters when a new technology emerges: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.
Incidentally, Africans are classified among the laggards or the late majority.
Apart from people’s aversion to change for various reasons, this lack or late adoption of technology is due to various reasons. These include the high cost of AI infrastructure and the lack of AI expertise and skilled professionals. Other factors include a lack of awareness of AI and related technologies, the [Western or Eurocentric] origins and features of such tools and a lack of trust in their deployment in the educational ecosystem.
Nonetheless, we cannot afford to ignore the potential that AI offers, especially in Africa. With the right investments and policies, African countries can leverage AI to drive growth and development in various sectors, from healthcare to agriculture and beyond.
AI can also help address some of the continent’s most pressing challenges, such as poverty, inequality, and lack of access to quality education. AI tools, such as ChatGPT-4, have been able to solve mathematics, statistics and arithmetic problems with high speed and precision. It has helped predict precise outcomes in the field of medicine and health. In higher education spaces, it has revolutionised teaching and learning, provided students with real-time, tailor-made support and provided a platform for human-like dialogue.
Given the aforegoing, it is imperative for African governments and stakeholders to invest in AI infrastructure and promote the development of AI skills and expertise for its citizenry, especially the youth. They can do this by providing incentives for AI start-ups and entrepreneurs, supporting research and development in AI, and collaborating with international partners to share knowledge and expertise.
Furthermore, students and educators in Africa can leverage AI tools to enhance teaching and learning outcomes. For instance, AI-powered educational tools can help students learn at their own pace, identify knowledge gaps, and receive personalised feedback. Educators can also use AI to automate administrative tasks, such as grading, and focus on more personalised teaching and learning.
In conclusion, AI has become a major game-changer in various industries and sectors, so it is important for everyone, especially those in higher education such as students, teachers and researchers, to leverage AI tools for educational and work-related purposes.
African countries must, therefore, embrace AI fully to drive growth and development in various sectors and address some of the continent’s most pressing challenges. It is important to end on the note that, with the right investments and policies, AI can help transform Africa and put it on a path to sustainable development.
Dr Michael Agyemang Adarkwah is a postdoctoral researcher based at the Smart Learning Institute of Beijing Normal University, China, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Professor Samuel Amponsah is a senior lecturer and heads the distance education department of the University of Ghana, e-mail: email@example.com; Professor Micheal van Wyk is a full professor in the department of curriculum and instruction in the School of Teacher Education at the College of Education at the University of South Africa, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.