Creatives in Kenya embrace AI but wary of its bias   




Kenya’s creatives are rapidly adopting artificial intelligence and using it to catalyze their creative process, according to research by Kenyan-based, multi-disciplinary arts organization Creatives Garage. The research is part of Mozilla’s Africa Mradi research series on the impact of AI on communities in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The research, ARTificial Intelligence in Africa: Investigating the impacts of AI on the Creative Community in Kenya,studies how artists use AI tools, and also the opportunities and threats they pose to the creative industry. It explores how the creative community engages with technologists and policymakers about AI – and provides recommendations for the ethical and responsible implementation of AI in Kenya.

Over 100 creatives, AI developers, and intellectual property litigators, largely drawn from Nairobi, contributed to the study through a survey, focus group discussions, and interviews. Research participants also include state department representatives from two national Government ministries, one representative from a National Commission, and two tech builders/AI developers.

Says Liz ‘Thayu’ Kilili, founder and MD, Creatives Garage: “As creatives, we cannot escape technology. Instead, we must harness it to our advantage, blending our artistic visions with technological innovations to enhance and expand our cultural expressions.”

Key Findings and Recommendations

Creatives are adopting AI but say it’s not a “silver bullet”. Kenyan creatives have a high awareness and adoption of generative AI tools. Most of the 130 creatives engaged use AI tools in their creative work or business. Over 75% of them said they use AI tools for image generation, graphic design, video creation, photo and copy editing, and presentations. Creatives used a total of 55 AI tools majorly developed in the U.S. and other Western countries. None of the AI tools Kenyan creatives use are made in Kenya. The most cited tools were: ChatGPT (20%), Google Gemini/Bard (13.3%), Canva (11%), Grammarly (at 8.5%), Google Translate (8.2%), and Midjourney (6.3%). Creatives also stated that AI is a ‘double-edged sword: a catalyst for enhancing creative processes but also admonished that it is not a ‘quick fix’ or a ‘silver bullet’. 

Job displacement, intellectual property, and cultural concerns are the top major AI threats for creatives. Creatives cited cultural threats, such as the propagation of Western and Eurocentric biases, misinformation, and limited information about the African continent and its states as the limitations they experienced while using AI tools. They said that AI presents several ‘gray areas’ and ‘loopholes’ that require clear regulation on IP and copyright issues. They also noted ‘shallow’ or insufficient understanding of IP laws by Kenyan creatives and stated that as AI continues to gain more traction in the industry, there is a need to rethink IP laws and the element of cultural preservation.

Creatives want robust policies and regulatory interventions to ensure AI is developed ethically and fairly. The protection of creatives’ rights, safeguarding their work from exploitation, addressing copyright and cultural concerns, and transparency in the building , training, and deployment of AI were cited as key to ensuring an ethical and fair AI environment. Other interventions that were proposed are; capacity building for policymakers and regulators to enable them to respond effectively to AI concerns and the development of more inclusive AI tools by African developers, and the use of datasets that are more representative of the African  context in collaboration with local artists. 

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