UNESCO Summit Urges African Media to Harness AI for Ethical Development

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Mr. Eric Voli Bi, UNESCO Representative in Gabon and to ECCAS

A summit on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the media, co-organized by UNESCO and the African Union of Broadcasting (AUB-UAR), has called on African media organizations to leverage technological advances while prioritizing ethical safeguards. The three-day event, held in Yaounde, Cameroun from March 4 to 6, 2024, brought together over 800 participants from 43 African countries and eight other nations.

The summit aimed to address concerns arising from AI’s emergence in African media and envisions methodologies for its integration. UNESCO’s participation was instrumental in achieving these objectives, with a panel discussion on AI governance in relation to education, science, culture, and communications.

Experts emphasized the need for ethical considerations in AI adoption, citing challenges that are not only professional but also cultural, ethical, political, and social. Gabon’s Minister of Communication and Media, Mrs. Laurence Ndong, stressed that AI’s impact on journalism requires a focus on changing the work and responsibility of journalists.

She stated that: “to speak of ‘AI and the media’ is to focus on changing the work and responsibility of journalists, their role in informing the public and demystifying AI users. The challenges are not only professional, but also cultural, ethical, political and social.”

Sharing some of Cameroon’s lessons learnt in the transformative impact of AI Documentary Heritage Management, Dr. Esther Olembe said: “Artificial Intelligence provides opportunities to set up tools for cooperation between African states, by putting in place devices that will enable them to communicate securely with each other.”

UNESCO regional advisors of Central Africa also shared UNESCO’s regional research results and experiences in the opportunities of artificial intelligence and journalism, open sciences, and the opportunities and challenges of teaching and learning in the age of artificial intelligence.

Presenting EDUCA-TV, Hilaire Mputu, UNESCO Regional Advisor for Education in Central Africa, said: “I would like to take this opportunity to inform you that UNESCO has just launched an educational television channel, exclusively dedicated to education, which will also raise awareness on issues related to artificial intelligence, in particular ethics and artificial intelligence”.

Mr. Eric Voli Bi, who represented the Director of UNESCO Yaoundé regional office, recalled UNESCO’s commitment in this field, with the example of the “Train My Generation – Gabon 5000” initiative, under which 5,000 young Gabonese were trained in information and communication technologies through a collaborative effort by UNESCO and Airtel.

Mr. Eric Voli Bi reaffirmed UNESCO’s commitment to assist member states in its mission to put in place strategies and laws that promote the supervision and use of artificial intelligence.

The summit’s outcome is expected to shape the future of AI in African media, promoting ethical development and responsible innovation.