Maintaining Ethical Standards Amid Rapid Tech Innovation

7th October 2023

Posted In: The Topic

A leading campaigner for African women in STEM recently addressed an Irish conference on the problem of building human bias into AI systems. Victoria Nxumalo told Learnovation 2023 that maintaining ethical standards amid rapid technological innovation is one of the most important challenges facing humanity in 2023. But, she added, that in solving the challenge, we need to humanise AI and not demonise it.

Named one of the Top 30 Most Influential Women in Tech in Africa by CIO Africa Magazine in 2021, Victoria Nxumalo is a tech specialist in digital skills training. She is the founder of Girls in STEM Trust and the Digital Learning Centre, both of which are aimed at empowering young women and girls in Africa to pursue STEM studies and careers.

Victoria was one of the keynote speakers at Learnovation 2023, the annual summit on the future of work and learning, which took place in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin recently.s

The theme of Learnovation 2023 was ‘Learner Disruption | Technology Evolution’, with speakers focusing on the benefits and limitations of AI for learning as well as other emerging trends in learning and learning technology. Learnovation is the annual summit organised by The Learnovate Centre in Trinity College Dublin, a leading global future of work and learning research hub funded by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.

Victoria Nxumalo addressed the conference on the issues of ethics, policy and governance in AI development. In particular, her presentation examined the problem of building human bias into AI systems, the impact of AI on children’s education, and the legal and ethical implications of using user data to create AI models.

Victoria is also Country Lead for Zimbabwe for SAP Africa Code Week, a continent-wide initiative to spark the interest of African youth aged eight to 24 in software coding, and is a Co-Moderator for SAP’s Women Empowerment Program.

Victoria Nxumalo said: “The potential for AI technology to cause harm by undermining how humans work and live is vast and leads to further questions about how we can create regulations that hold the tech companies that develop these systems to account. It also raises questions around how best to protect people’s right to autonomy in decision-making, free from manipulation by external forces.

“We don’t want to demonise AI. We want to look at ways that we can humanise it. It’s important to look at the systems that we’ve created – especially if we’re getting to a point in the development of AI where the technology has a life of its own.”

Director of The Learnovate Centre, Nessa McEniff said:

“As technology evolves at a rapid pace, we are responsible for how it impacts future generations. This is why events like The Learnovation Summit are so important where we gather together senior learning professionals to explore the impact of technology on the future of work and learning.

Technology and learning are shaped by the cultural and social contexts in which they evolve and we need to uncover and examine these invisible forces to ensure technology benefits rather than harms humanity.”

Learnovation 2023 was hosted by Dr Nigel Paine, Global Thought Leader and former CLO of the BBC. Other keynote speakers included Dr Patricia Scanlon, Ireland’s first AI Ambassador and founder of SoapBox Labs; Dr Jen Ross, co-director of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, and Nick Shackleton-Jones, founder of Shackleton Consulting.

Pictured (l-r): Director of The Learnovate Centre, Nessa McEniff with Victoria Nxumalo founder and executive director of Girls in Stem Trust.