University lecturers call for infrastructure improvement to ease AI adoption in teaching and research in Kenya

Kenya’s university educators are calling for an urgent review of existing infrastructure within higher education institutions to allow for the seamless integration of artificial intelligence in classrooms and research. This was a key takeaway from a workshop organised by the Microsoft Africa Development Centre (ADC) in collaboration with the Kenya Education Network (KENET) to explore the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve teaching, learning, and research in higher education.

Speaking at the event, Microsoft ADC Managing Director Catherine Muraga emphasised the importance of AI in the evolving classroom landscape and presented private-private and public-private partnerships as a key way to bridge existing infrastructure gaps.

(TOP: L-R – Michael Niyitegeka, Executive Director, Refactory Academy, Uganda; Catherine Muraga, MD, Microsoft ADC; and Dr Ojwang’ Alice Achieng’, Academic Team Leader in the Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics at the Technical University of Kenya, during a workshop on AI in higher education convened Microsoft ADC in partnership with the Kenya Education Network – KENET. The workshop brought together faculty, researchers, tech professionals, and policy makers to deliberate on the adoption of AI in teaching and research).

“It was a fruitful workshop with academics, policymakers, researchers, and partners such as KENET. One of the most important considerations for universities is the availability of infrastructure for collecting and storing local data, which can then be used to train AI models for use in education and research. The government, which can provide significant assistance in areas such as technology-related skilling, is one of the larger players that must also be engaged,” said Ms Muraga.

The workshop’s discussions focused on four major themes: the need for AI skill development, improving pedagogy through research, the role of AI and research, and the infrastructure requirements to accelerate AI adoption.

On his part, KENET executive director, Prof. Meoli Kashorda, lauded the developments made by universities in improving AI-related infrastructure and called for additional funding and innovation to improve capacity for AI adoption in academia.

“AI tools are already being used by some students and lecturers. At this point, we must consider how AI can be made available to everyone in higher education. The challenge is that it demands more AI infrastructure, which requires significant resources. We need huge investments in AI infrastructure so we can start to apply it in research at scale,” said Prof Kashorda.

While acknowledging AI’s potential in education, educators emphasised the importance of ongoing professional development opportunities to ensure they have the skills needed to incorporate new technologies into their teaching methods.

Additionally, discussions focused on the importance of responsible AI development that promotes inclusivity. According to the experts, this will necessitate investment in collecting, sorting, storing, and processing datasets derived from African settings. They also advocated for the development of policies and guidelines governing the use of AI in educational institutions.

“As KENET, we have provided funding to develop case studies on the use of AI in teaching computer science. This will be expanded to demonstrate the power of AI in other disciplines. We believe that these case studies will help convert the opinions of higher education leaders into policies promoting AI adoption in universities,” Prof. Kashorda added.

The workshop will culminate with the publication of a whitepaper on AI and its applications in various aspects of higher education, addressing challenges and developing recommendations for widespread adoption in universities and colleges. It is part of a series of initiatives launched by the Microsoft ADC to improve technical skills within and outside the technology ecosystem.

Microsoft launched the Africa Development Centre (ADC) in 2019. The centre’s goal is to attract world-class African engineering talent to create innovative solutions spanning the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. Since its inception, the ADC has grown to over 500 full-time employees working in areas such as software engineering, machine learning, data science, market research, infrastructure, and much more.


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