AI is not just a means to an end, we live and do business differently because of its far reaching impact. It offers us new opportunities to address societal and economic issues, from social inclusion to workplace participation, to security and environmental protection. Therefore, as an engine of productivity and economic growth, any developments in AI must also contribute to the general welfare and prosperity of a country and its citizens.
However, when it comes to AI and data science, there is a troubling and persistent absence of women. Only 22 percent of those in this field are women. But despite low participation rates and barriers to entry, women in AI are breaking silos and bringing game-changing innovations to the industry. Technological innovation cannot flourish without social innovation, and social innovation cannot happen in the absence of inclusion. It has been proven that diverse teams are more productive and creative leading to new and inventive ideas. The Kingdom of the Netherlands in South Africa, under the #cocreateSANL brand, strives to improve the participation of women and youth through its support of women in STEM, and working more meaningfully with youth-led organisations. One such initiative is #InspiringFiftySA, which is a national campaign that showcases inspiring women role models in the STEM industry in Europe, Canada and South Africa.
We continue to work together with the South African ecosystem to develop solutions that will empower both countries. We will be hosting a hackathon (#hackMYCITY) in November 2022, in collaboration with one of the leading digitalisation institutes in the country, Tshimogolong Digital Innovation Precinct. Through the hackathon, we aim to demonstrate the opportunities and benefits of digital twins in policy making for the city for Johannesburg. Therefore, the hackathon will be centred on real challenges the city is facing, facilitate surfacing of local youth-led innovations as well as kickstart the implementation of said innovations.
The Netherlands believes digital transformation must be built on trust and focus on serving societies worldwide. Through cooperation, we aim to further unlock the social and economic potential of digital technology, such as lowering healthcare costs, improving mobility and accelerating sustainable food production. We also aim to be a pioneer and testing ground for responsible digital innovation. To this end, the Netherlands has positioned itself as a key player in a number of sectors in regard to technological development and AI such as smart mobility, healthcare, agriculture, data sharing and cyber security. The Netherlands is rising strong in AI readiness, and leaped from 14th to 9th place in the 2020 Oxford Insights Index. We are proud to host the headquarters of the largest international AI network, the CLAIRE Research Network, as well as the first AI-only Rockstart Accelerator. We are looking forward to growing the relationships with our existing partners in South Africa, and we are always open to forming new strategic partnerships. Make sure to visit our women in AI pavilion at this year’s expo, and look out for our #hackMYCITY hackathon in November!
The Netherlands Embassy SA is also sponsoring the Annual Women in AI Zone at AI Expo Africa 2022. This forms a key part of the inclusion and growth programme at the event to encourage and inspire more young female developers and entrepreneurs to get involved with the growing AI / Deep Tech sector opportunity in South Africa / Africa.
Dr Nick Bradshaw, Founder and Programme Director at AI Expo Africa stated, “We are really happy to have the #CoCreateSANL team from the Netherlands Embassy SA supporting this initiative this year. We have a goal to reach 50:50 male and female engagement and this is a big step towards that vision. Last year we attracted 1800 delegates and 36% were female, which while encouraging, we can always aim higher. The #CoCreateSANL have been previous supporters of our trade mission programme and this year we are grateful to have them engaging to make our Women in AI Zone a reality allowing us to showcase 9x female owner managed AI / DeepTech SMMEs. As we continue to celebrate Women’s Month in South Africa this is really something to shout about as we take another step forward to reaching our 50:50 target!.”
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