Microsoft SA unveils policy innovation centre

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Microsoft SA MD Lillian Barnard.
Microsoft SA MD Lillian Barnard.

Microsoft SA has officially launched its second Policy Innovation Centre (PIC) in Africa at the University of Pretoria.

The PICs are centres designed to bring together various stakeholders from government, academia, industry and civil society to share experiences and best practices to foster innovative policy dialogue and recommendations across various industries.

In a statement, Microsoft says the PICs are based at, and managed by, partner academic institutions with strong academics and experts who are leaders in their field and region, and who will also collaborate closely with colleagues across the Middle East and Africa, and the rest of the world.

The software company goes on to say this is to ensure that all policy dialogues and engagements at the PIC factor in the local policy dynamics in the region but are also able to apply international expertise and know how to address the various policy challenges that exist.

"With the fourth industrial revolution upon us - innovations in technology are changing the way we live and how we interact. The benefits are endless, having the potential to transform businesses, countries and make way for innovations for consumers and create economic opportunities. Challenges and issues that emerge can be effectively addressed by providing a space, through the PIC, that enables collaboration and discussion," reads the statement.

Microsoft SA MD Lillian Barnard adds: "If Africa can take decisive steps to overcome its unique challenges, it will catch up to those countries that have already taken steps to advance AI. The success of AI in Africa will depend on the ability of governments to foster collaboration among all stakeholders - smart partnerships are everything. Facilities such as the PIC can help us facilitate robust conversations and thinking that will inevitably reshape the way we do business in the future."

Through the PIC, Microsoft SA says it has already developed a future-facing white paper titled, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Africa: An Opportunity for Growth, Development, and Democratisation.

The white paper was compiled by Access Partnership in conjunction with the University of Pretoria, and was released during the 2018 Science Forum South Africa. The paper takes a deep dive into how AI can, and will, change the way we live and work across the continent, but with a strong focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

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