Applied Machine Learning Days (AMLD) Africa, a free Machine Learning conference, makes it possible for anyone in Africa to learn about AI and interact with world-class speakers and entities.
In 2020, AMLD Africa was founded to #DemocratizeMachineLearning in Africa. Two years later, AMLD Africa presented the African continent their second edition: an opportunity to learn, be inspired, and network with experts from multinationals (IBM, Google, Oracle, AWS), giant Moroccan companies (OCP), diplomatic and governmental entities (Ministry of the Digital Transition and administration reform) and even Turing Award Recipient (Nobel’s price in Computer Science) Yoshua Bengio.
A machine learning conference can cost up to $1000 per person per day. Conferences allow participants to not only learn state-of-the-art technologies but also connect and network with both the scientific and corporate communities.
“My hard work and my place of privilege allowed me to study in a world-renowned university, and therefore, interact with world-renowned experts. I am glad to have access to such opportunities, but is it fair to those who deserve it but can’t afford it?” questions Ines Bahej, a head organizer of AMLD Africa. That is why a group of the African Diaspora in Switzerland founded Machine Learning for Africa (MLA) to bring closer what they have to those who don’t.
What exactly is AMLD Africa?
Applied Machine Learning Days (AMLD) is a conference founded by Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in 2017. The conference expanded its reach to Africa – specifically, Ben Guerir, Morocco. From the 3rd to the 5th of November 2022, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) hosted the second edition of AMLD Africa: an impact-oriented, interdisciplinary and inclusive initiative. Despite the fact AMLD Africa literally contains the word “Machine Learning”, it is not about “Machine Learning”. It’s an invitation to discuss and assess the impact that comes with this fascinating tool and learn from applied implementations in the African continent. In fact, the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is sector-agnostic, and that is why talks were divided into different relevant tracks that impact the continent and the world. Here’s the interview of Guillaume Scheurer, the Swiss ambassador in Morocco on the importance of AI for the growth of business in general: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTz_k1Pmrh8
During a climate change crisis, AMLD Africa shed a light on Africa’s research on water resource management. In a post-pandemic era, the conference broadcasted how we can use AI in healthcare, such as in breast cancer’s detection. However, AI is not a magical wand that can transform challenges into magical solutions. We have been reminded not only of its limitations but also the need to use it ethically because “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
AMLD Africa aims to share this power and inform the responsibilities that come with it to all data enthusiasts. The impact of the conference goes beyond the walls of the venue and has reached almost 3000 participants from more than 70 countries (including 35 African Countries). Participants all over the continent not only watched the conference through their screens but even gathered in physical broadcasts organized by local ambassadors in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Tunisia, DRC, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, South Africa, and Algeria.
AMLD Africa is not only inclusive to participants but also to speakers. The conference has invited speakers from public and private sectors (the Minister of Digital Transformation and the Vice President of Oracle), from the academic and corporate environment (a lecturer from a Kenyan University and the Chief Transformation Officer of OCP) but also from the scientific, business, and even diplomatic sector as even the AI director of the European Commission was able to share her thoughts on Europe’s AI strategy. The conference was a strong reminder that democratizing Machine Learning is neither a private nor a public sector but will only be achieved through a global and comprehensive strategy.
Every ending is a new beginning, and the closing of the conference announced the beginning of an initiative that unites and inspires a continent. In a local interview, Nour Ghalia Abassi, a head organizer of AMLD Africa, gave a glance at the future steps of Machine Learning for Africa.
AMLD Africa is an African initiative, therefore the impact of the conference should not be geographically limited to a country. The association has launched several discussions about what country should host this initiative.
She strongly believes that #DemocratizingMachineLearning will not only be achieved throughout a three-day conference. We will therefore organize other initiatives that will target African researchers and job seekers. These initiatives will aim to create bridges between the public, private, and academic sectors.
Artificial Intelligence presents ethical, social, and economic challenges, but these challenges come with an undeniable opportunity to leapfrog the technological infrastructure associated with the Third Industrial Revolution. The more passionate talents benefit from easy access to technology, the more initiatives will leverage data, and the more AI could benefit our daily life. If you are wondering how that can be done, then AMLD Africa is the conference to follow.