Fast Company SA chats to Chairman Roy Bannister and Event Director Nick Bradshaw about this year’s most anticipated AI event, the AI Expo Africa.
What is your vision for the AI Expo Africa 2018?
To build the largest business-focused Artificial Intelligence (AI) community in Africa, committed to economic growth and social good; and to create a long-term sustainable pan-African forum that will be at the forefront of sharing knowledge across the continent for the greater good of Africa. The AI Expo Africa 2018 will see the largest pan-African AI community gather under one roof with a shared vision of harnessing Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Data Science, Robotic Process Automation and Internet of Things (IoT) for the benefit of African enterprise and startups alike.
Why is there a need for a conference of this nature on the African continent?
Artificial Intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution are hot buzzwords in the media at the moment, especially given the potential for disruption of all business and government sectors in the future. Businesses are not fully prepared for the disruption this technology will bring, nor do they understand the regional supply base. Businesses need to understand how to implement AI, and harness it for increased efficiency and profitability.
The academic and technical communities are well-served with a multitude of events, but there were none that catered to the business community using the format we have created. An event is needed that will bridge the gap between the academic and technical pursuit of AI and its real-world applications.
What makes this event different to similar events on Artificial Intelligence?
Firstly, we believe the traditional event model is broken and often out of the reach of many companies and delegates purely in terms of the price charged and formats that are run. Secondly, we are building a community; a movement of people focused on the real-world business application of these technologies that aims to be inclusive and represents all aspects of the user community. Our event is merely the manifestation of our rapidly growing AI business community seeking a long-term view to a sustainable AI industry. It’s underpinned by inclusivity, where the biggest enterprise and smallest startup can mix with venture capitalists, enterprise buyers, government, educators, AI talent and ecosystem enablers. We are offering affordability on the entry price for all, allied to 400 free training places for young AI engineers and data scientists, interns and learners. All of these unique characteristics make AI Expo Africa unlike any other event that follows the traditional trade show formula.
Will you be looking at Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deep Learning etc. in an African context? How will you ensure this?
Most definitely, as one of our stated visions is harnessing AI for the greater good of Africa. We’re reaching out to leaders across the continent – from Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and other countries that have excellent innovative AI ecosystems – and looking to include them in our pan-African community. Knowledge-sharing, skills-development and the fostering of a shared vision to harness AI in fields such as healthcare, poverty alleviation, finance, service delivery, agri-business and other sectors, will result in benefits for all. We are also partnering with various ecosystem partners such as Silicon Cape and the Machine Intelligence Institute of Africa to ensure the right people are involved and our message reaches far and wide.
What can attendees expect over the two days?
We have a packed two-day conference with over 30 keynote speakers. Leaders in the AI field will unpack real-world case-studies for delegates with the aim of promoting the AI offerings available today for businesses and organisations. There will be practical AI, IoT and VR demonstrations, as well as 50 vendors in the Expo Hall, with exhibitors like Hikvision, Di Data, BCX, and SAP. Delegates can also look forward to the Innovation Café, housing 20 AI startups, as well as free AI workshops, catering to 400 students and engineers.