The Deep Learning Indaba is an organisation whose mission is to Strengthen Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Africa. We work towards the goal of Africans being not only observers and receivers of the ongoing advances in AI, but active shapers and owners of these technological advances.
Supporting Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Africa
Much of the wider discourse at present is permeated with conversations around the 4th industrial revolution, the need for policies and interventions around changes to jobs and workplaces, the impacts of increasing automation in societies, of high-levels of global investment in AI and machine learning, and visions of AI-first organisations. What underlies these conversation is the ongoing and rapid advances being made in artificial intelligence. It is essential for Africans to become not just observers of the ongoing advances in AI, but active shapers and owners of these technological advances. It is for this reason that the Indaba was conceived. And for this reason it plays a unique and important role within our continent.
The Deep Learning Indaba aims to address two principal aims: African participation and contribution to the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and diversity in these fields of science. The implications of these overarching goals is the spreading of technical knowledge at the state-of-the art in the field; the opportunities for new research connections to be made and and silos in the research community to be broken; the fostering of a better understanding of the variety of career paths in the field, especially those that are in abundance locally; and through new friendships, perspectives and backgrounds, taking the steps to realising a more representative, inclusive and multicultural machine learning community.
For more detailed discussion see the report Strengthening African Machine Learning: Outcomes of the First Deep Learning Indaba.
Our Programmes and Activities
We execute our mission through three principal programmes: the annual Deep Learning Indaba, the IndabaX, and the Kambule and Maathai awards. These programmes aim to build a sustainable pan-African community of AI expertise, create local leadership in AI in every country across the continent, and recognise excellence in research and application of AI technologies, respectively.
The Deep Learning Indaba the annual gathering of the African AI community. It consists of a week-long event of teaching, practical session and debate on the principles and practice of modern Artificial Intelligence. Participants are selected from across the African continent, and elsewhere, and are exposed to the world’s leaders in the area of AI, build networks for future research and innovation, and are given the opportunity to showcase their own work. Participants range from all levels, including undergraduate students, research students, lecturers and academic, industry professionals, startups, and policy developers.
The IndabaX builds local leadership in individual countries across our continent. We ask groups to run their own one-day Indaba and build the community of researchers and developers in their community. We support these IndabaX’s through small grants and organisational guidance.
The Kambule Doctoral Dissertation Award recognises excellence in research and and writing by a doctoral candidate at an African higher education institution. The Alele-Williams Masters Award recognises excellence by Masters degree candidates at African universities, in any area of computational and statistical sciences. The Maathai Impact Award recognises excellence in the application of machine learning to problems facing Africa and her people.
The Indaba is lead by a steering group, the Indaba Abantu, that consists of Africans committed to our mission in countries across our continent and abroad. The Indaba is also supported by an Advisory Board, who are critical thinkers in machine learning, artificial intelligence and its impacts on the people and societies, and guide our thinking and planning.
What is an Indaba?
An indaba is a Zulu word for a gathering or meeting. Such meetings are held throughout southern Africa, and serve several functions: to listen and share news of members of the community, to discuss common interests and issues facing the community, and to give advice and coach others. This is one of many words we have, including an imbizo (in Xhosa), an intlanganiso, and a lekgotla (in Sesotho). And by other words in other parts of the continent, such as a baraza (in Kiswahili) in Kenya and Tanzania, and padare (in Shona) in Zimbabwe. And of course this connects us to community gatherings that are similarly held by cultures throughout the world.
This spirit of coming together, of sharing and learning is one of the core values of our organisation, and hence, the best choice of name for it.
Subject Areas and Activities
We advance study, research and deployment of knowledge in the subjects of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This therefore includes other subject areas that are the foundation of these fields, such as statistics, mathematics, probability and computer science. We also include related computational sciences, which are the applications of the field, including operations research, genomics, computational biology, econometrics, computational neuroscience, cognitive science and computational psychology, computational finance, statistical physics, information theory, and logic. Of importance are the fields that help assess and consider the impacts of advanced technologies and the subjects of ethics, and philosophy are also important to our work.
The Deep Learning Indaba Ltd is a non-profit company, formally registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee (without shares) with the Company’s House in in England and Wales. The formal and legal aspects of the Indaba’s operations are overseen by a Board of Trustees.