Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make a statement on regulating Artificial Intelligence (AI): challenges and opportunities in Ghana, preparing for the future.

Mr. Speaker, a quote by Stephen Hawking, a Physics Nobel laureate “Our future is a race between the growing power of Technology and the Wisdom with which we use it” The quote reminds us of the great opportunities and challenges that new Technologies hold for us.

AI systems are designed to operate with varied levels of autonomy. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 2019) defines AI as a “machine-based system that can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, make predictions, recommendations, or decisions influencing real or virtual environments”. 

In Ghana, AI policy discourse and its infrastructure development are only embryonic to secure the future. We need to build an all-inclusive AI system. Ghana now has a thriving internet penetration at 72 per cent. In Ghana, Artificial Intelligence is still in its infant stage. Today, people in Ghana have a rudimentary understanding of AI.

Artificial Intelligence is a branch of science that studies and develops intelligent machines (Luxton, 2016). This field of science was established in the 1950s and by that time AI was described as a new science which will methodically examine the phenomenon of intelligence, computer simulations of intelligence processes were to be used to achieve this goal (Bray & Suraka, 2009).

AI refers to a combination of technologies that enables what UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology, Commerce refers to as “machines capable of imitating certain functionalities of human intelligence including such features as perception, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, language, interaction and even producing creative work (Commerce 2019)”.

This statement is intended to highlight some of the core AI opportunities, challenges and policy dimensions requiring our attention as law and policymakers.

AI potential risks are particularly acute in the developing world. In the words of Hamann 2018, “The new technologies may build upon and exacerbate existing inequalities, thus both within developing countries as well as between developing and more developed regions.

In Africa, particularly Ghana, the benefits of AI are readily apparent. AI offers a myriad of potential benefits for Ghana. AI systems rely on Algorithms and machine learning to analyse data and make predictions.  AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time.

AI has enormous potential for strengthening the delivery of public service, particularly the delivery of health care and medicine. According to the WHO AI has improved diagnosis and clinical care, enhancing health research and the deployment of public health interventions (Dr Soumya Swaminathan).

AI can be useful for agriculture. It has significant advantages for the agriculture sector, predicting weather, opportunities for planting and harvesting successfully and determining appropriate fertilizer use.

The use of Artificial Intelligence poses several challenges that cannot be resolved simply by ethical principles and existing laws and policies because the risk of AI is not yet understood.

AI is one of the most transformative technologies of our time and has the potential to help solve many of our world’s most pressing challenges (Microsoft CE Satya Nadella).

The adoption and use of artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly increasing (Borrison and Howatt, 2021) around the world. In Africa, AI creation and implementation are transforming our lives and cultures in a variety of ways.

Whiles AI has enormous potential, it also poses major difficulties for businesses and government notably in terms of ethics, the moral, economic and social repercussions of the cared industrial revolution are still being debated globally.

AI undermines established moral and legal paradigms that place human agency solely in the hands of humans. It has been noted to create socio-economic iniquity (Chatbots) artificial intelligence software that can simulate a conversation or a chat with a user and natural language through messaging applications, websites, mobile apps or through the telephone.  In Africa, there has been a significant increase in the demand and use of Chatbots, it must be so for Ghana.

Experts have even warned that AI could lead to the extinction of humanity. Experts including the heads of Open AI and Google Dipmight were part of this warning and stated that and I quote “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal skill risks such as pandemics and nuclear war and race” but there are those who think these fears are overblown.

According to the experts, possible disaster scenarios include:

i.     AI should be weaponised for e.g have discovery tools which

       will be used to plant chemical weapons;     

ii.    AI-generated misinformation could destabilise society and undermine collective decision-making;

iii.    The power of AI could become increasingly concentrated in fewer and fewer hands enabling regimes to enforce narrow values through pervasive surveillance and oppressive censorship. 

Mr. Speaker today, AI technologies are more adequately deployed in the USA and Europe than in Africa Low Middle-Income Countries (LMIC).  We need to work to bridge the existing digital divide in the use of AI.

Mr Speaker, there is no law regulating social media in Ghana. Social media has become a toxic source of misinformation. There is even no law limiting children on the use of electronic devices which require parental control. To protect young people, we would need new legislation that strengthens the hands of State institutions. Parents must have a role to play in the participation of children in the use of social media and the use of electronic devices. 

Mr Speaker, children may become addicted to the use of electronic devices and the internet. We have a responsibility to protect our children from this apparent ‘electronic pandemic’. We need to have a policy and probably a law on protecting children online based on age-appropriate experiences.

We need to limit the amount of time spent on social media. Parents must have full access to children’s online accounts including posts and memberships. Parents’ explicit control will be required before children can create accounts on social media platforms such as Instagram, Tik Tok and others.

In other to support the development and use of AI, a policy framework to guide both human and institutional capacities is important. There are challenges posed by AI, the use of AI technologies has an inherent threat as it gives rise to ethical challenges that require urgent attention to inform the governance of AI technologies. Who bears criminal liability for machine error?

There are gaps in the use of AI even in our educational institutions. At what level is AI taught — primary, secondary or university? What research capacities do you have for AI? Do we have any access to training data for AI?

The use of digital technologies for innovative, inclusive and sustainable growth in Ghana is necessary if our digital transformation strategy is to succeed. It offers us a leapfrogging opportunity by adopting digital solutions faster and without being incumbent by legacy challenges of facing out or transitioning from older technologies to new ones (ANTAC 2018).

A future national development plan must necessary have the use of AI as a priority as per the national development plan of our country to prepare the country for the future. Ghana as of today, has no strategy, Ghana has no legislation on AI, and no ethical guidelines on AI. 

As the development and use of AI expand across different domains, there is a need to have legal regulatory guidance to ensure that AI is used in a manner that aligns with human rights. 

Ghana will probably have to consider establishing an Artificial Intelligence Council probably led by the Minister responsible for ICT or the Vice President of the Republic with representation from the Ministry of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Interior, and Higher Education, mandated to coordinate and come out with a unified strategy that reflects the government’s priorities and other stakeholders and the use of AI applications.  

Ghana as a country needs a new legal and regulatory framework for AI governance. The development and use of AI as a priority for the future remains imperative. We need to initiate measures to guide the development and use of AI through the launch of AI strategies and policies, enactment of legislation and probably even anticipate the establishment of centres of excellence on AI through scientific research.

As the country embarks on digital innovation and attempts to mainstream ICT in all aspects of our public national life leveraging AI for economic growth, development and digital transformation must be an urgent consideration of our country if we are to secure tomorrow’s competitive future which would be driven largely by technology.

Human rights standards, data protection laws and ethical principles are all necessary to guide, regulate and manage the use of AI.  We need to ensure strict adherence to responsible AI principles.  Ghana needs to ready itself for an AI future, to reap AI benefits and mitigate its threats. The policy must necessarily respond to the opportunities AI offers.  Let us work to avoid a future of “digital colonisation”.  AI in Ghana can be guided by the experiences of other nations and continents but based on our unique characteristics.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity.


This is was delivered on the floor of Parliament on June 7

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.