ACET Launches Africa’s First AI Challenge for Infrastructure

December 17, 2020
Accra, December 17, 2020 –– The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and Omdena, a collaborative technology platform, today launched a global challenge that aims to use artificial intelligence (AI) to predict future infrastructure needs in Africa. This project, the Omdena Challenge, is the first attempt in Africa to harvest data comprehensively to improve infrastructure.

Comprised of 42 data scientists from 20 countries, the challenge represents a unique opportunity for accelerating positive change in Africa through the use of advanced technology and innovation. Working as global team, participants will seek to develop new predictive models, approaches, tools, and methodologies that African governments and development partners can deploy to better anticipate—and address—the continent’s growing demand for quality infrastructure.

Efficient and effective infrastructure is critical to economic transformation, but Africa’s infrastructure gap is up to $108 billion per year. African governments are faced with exorbitant costs, directly financing 42 percent of all infrastructure needs from national budgets.

The Omdena Challenge will utilize various sources of openly available data—including satellite images, climate and topological data, population and demographic data, Google Trends, and Google business data, as well as social media data to help understand aspirations, needs, and sentiments of people living in the region. It will run for eight weeks.

The project will support ACET’s ongoing work on infrastructure and private sector development, including the G20 Compact with Africa, infrastructure project cycles, sustainable export processing zones, infrastructure financing and investment promotion.

“We are thrilled to work with Omdena and so many data scientists around the world”, said Rob Floyd, ACET Director and Senior Advisor.  “This challenge is important in that it brings together ACET’s work on innovation and on infrastructure. If we can develop some new predictive model using artificial intelligence, they can be important drivers of Africa’s economic transformation.”

Omdena is a collaborative platform and social enterprise where a global community of changemakers builds innovative and ethical AI solutions to real-world problems. In addition to working with ACET, Omdena other project partners include the World Resources Institute, Save the Children, and the United Nations World Food Programme.

About ACET

The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) is an economic policy institute supporting Africa’s long-term growth through transformation. We produce research, offer policy advice, and galvanize action for African countries to develop their economies, reduce poverty, and improve livelihoods for all their people.

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