__New champions of AI emerge… in Africa!
A few weeks ago I read an interesting article in the Financial Times (FT) entitled “AI’s new workforce: the data-labelling industry spreads globally”, about an industry of the future (and now) that in Africa already employs thousands of people living in informal settlements (slums) in urban Kenya and Uganda. Amongst the early types of jobs emerging in Artificial Intelligence, 2,800+ jobs have been created in Nairobi alone, by just one company…
How? Let’s talk! Founded in San Francisco with headquarters in Nairobi, Samasource focuses on training and employing thousands of people (digital labelling experts) to study video footage and images, carefully labelling frame by frame all they see — road markings, street signs, trees, people, cars, sky and every pixel in between.
This human labeling is then “fed” to an algorithm to “train” it to “see” and recognize objects in the real world. One hour of video takes eight hours to label. (Of course, I am simplifying here.#SeniorClass: Please help the others understand what an algorithm is and does, and how high quality data-labelling is critical for AI’s machine learning and revolutionary inventions like self-driving cars!)
Samasource founder and CEO, Leila Janah, has shared that when she was getting started, it was actually the assembly line #process introduced by Henry Ford in 1913 that inspired her to focus her business on the data labelling #process of AI. As most of you know, Henry Ford broke down the production of a complex machine (the Model T) into small parts, enabling even those with only basic training to be employed in the world-changing motor vehicle industry, back in its earliest days.
When Ms Janah decided to outsource some of the early data labelling work out of the USA, she said she initially faced a great deal of skepticism, with many concerned there would be be too few people in Africa and India with the digital skills to provide world-class data-labelling quality required by the top multinationals. Her skeptics were wrong…
Samasource is now contracted by huge companies like Walmart, Google, Microsoft, General Motors, and many others to carry out this critical work! (And since Women’s Day was last week, let me not forget to mention that a majority of Samasource workers globally are women, as the company’s senior management, even in Silicon Valley).
With thanks to author, Madhumita Murgia let me complete this AI supply chain case study by quoting her FT article directly:
“According to a January 2019 report by analyst firm Cognilytica, the market for third-party data labelling solutions was $150m in 2018, growing to more than $1bn by 2023.
‘The largest technology companies don’t want to be in the business of training data, they want to own customer relationships [and] are using partners and procurement wisely,’ said Leila Janah, founder and chief executive of Samasource. . .‘But this is why conversations around ethical AI supply chains are so vital to have now. Before it starts moving out of their four walls, we have to make sure we set the standards, and this market doesn’t go the way of apparel factories. There is a huge opportunity to ensure this [labelling] industry is a positive force’.”
You can find the full FT article at: https://www.ft.com/content/56dde36c-aa40-11e9-984c-fac8325aaa04
Reflection: What did you learn from this story?
#1. AI is already happening, and there are smart entrepreneurs getting in early! You cannot get in early on anything, if you do not spend time to get a deeper level of understanding.
#2. Be a “doer”, not a “watcher”, of things happening around you. This platform is a “practical class” and not a “discussion forum” or “chat room”.
Every post or even every comment should be read with a pen and paper in hand, reflectively looking for practical things to DO!
Yes, we #LearnToDo…
I would like you to become an expert in understanding AI, on behalf of Africa!
To be continued. . .
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa