With the advancement of technology in the developed countries, the reception and adoption rate in Africa is of concern. While a few multinationals (names withheld) have embraced the idea and functionality of robotics and modified artificial intelligence, a lot of companies are still way behind in terms of receptiveness. Owing to the latter, how then can these companies put ‘smart’ to work if there is this underlying fear of the unknown towards the functionalities that surround computers and machines? Also, how do we ‘protect’ what is most prominent around the business space.
Protection here connotes how a business goal is brought to fruition so that users are not able to know the difference if it is a robot or a human responding to them and in doing this, robotics or ‘chatbot’ are given the personas of humans
While skepticism is devised in our reasoning towards computers and machines, there are several ideas though mostly still under development and a few robot activities emerging in Africa. African Robotics Network (AFRON) wants to mobilize a community of institutions and individuals working on robotics-related areas, thereby strengthening communication and collaboration among them. Professor Ayorkor Korsah, a professor of computer science at the University of the North of Accra, Ghana’s capital, co-founded AFRON with Ken Goldberg, an IEEE Fellow and professor of robotics at the University of California, Berkeley. Goldberg, who was born in Nigeria where his parents were teachers, opined that one of the first projects AFRON is planning involves an international competition to design an extremely low-cost programmable robot for education. The idea, which is still under development, is to create a simple robot with parts costing under 10 dollars that students would use to explore science and engineering topics, being the foundation knowledge required for programming in a more mature stage. The robot is to be connected via USB to a computer, and students would use open-source software to program the robot’s behavior. Goldberg acknowledges that developing a capable robot for just 10 dollars is a challenge. In his words, “We want to get people thinking creatively, We are not sure if it’s possible, but it’s a target to aim for.” If they are successful and done right, robots could become a popular educational tool in Africa. In essence, receptiveness, as mentioned above, is a process that should begin for kids at the elementary level.
Robotics can be a great educational tool because it combines the tangible world with which kids are familiar as well as the formalization of programming and mathematics.
The functionality of robotics involves the combination of a tangible world which, in simple terms, is all about manipulation. That is, it creates the ability to manipulate the real world using a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence programs. But then, is manipulation not considered to be a toxic trait?
While there is a concern that robotics could replace people in jobs, these robots could work alongside humans as ‘cobots’, where they collaborate with people instead of taking over their careers. In the next article, we will discuss the tasks around which robotics could be placed.
Owing to the crossroads that Africa currently is as above, is it safe to leave essential tasks around a workplace in the hands of robotics, Would you give your recruitment process to robotics, would you prefer to be interviewed by a robot? Why have telco companies not embraced the invention of robotics, given that they have streams of inbound and outbound interactions to attend?
Let us keep in mind that the collective communal aim should be to create a device that will make businesses around the workplace more relaxed, and not to rid people of their jobs.