How should Uganda embrace artificial intelligence?

The intelligence exhibited by machine also known as Artificial Intelligence is an area that very many large technology companies are investing into these days. Apple made its mark in artificial intelligence by introducing its digital assistant Siri, google and Microsoft also followed. Social media giants; Facebook and amazon have shown indications of investing in Artificial Intelligence. The interest of these companies in this field of computer science is an indicator that Artificial Intelligence is an area that offers a lot of promise.

The country has tried to use AI in some areas for example KCCA introduced the smart traffic lights at Wandegeya. Much as the lights don’t employ a self-mind in controlling traffic, they are an indication that using AI would be relevant to the country. AI lab at Makerere has also made a few innovations in the area of AI but these remain on small scale. The problem with the direction that the country is taking is that they are focusing on robotics and other “Capital intensive” AI research, which capital is not readily available in the country.
Research in AI is greatly specialized and is sub divided into various categories, this means that investing in AI could provide great potential for a developing country like Uganda if the right niche is exploited.

Computer-vision-based traffic flow monitoring. Credit: AI Research Uganda
Computer-vision-based traffic flow monitoring. Credit: AI Research Uganda

One of the sub divisions of AI is big data and data analysis. This includes the use of computers and computing devices to analysis large data and data patterns, create correlations and predict future data trends. Big data analysis unlike robotics is not as capital intensive. This area of AI in Uganda’s situation would provide a comprehensive solution since it can be applied by both private and public sector.

Accurate data mining and Analysis techniques could help in proper government planning and service delivery. The ministry of defense, internal affairs and ministry of foreign can achieve more from the data collected from the national ID registration if they employee the right data mining and large data analysis tools. Large data mining and analysis techniques can also be employed to study weather, soil, pests and other phenomenal that affect agriculture in the country. The health sector can also benefit from the use of data mining and AI. The Munno App developed by the winners of the Health app challenge demonstrates one of those simple ways in which AI can be used to improve health services.

Furthermore private sector can also use the data mining tools to formulate marketing strategies and improve profit. Companies in Europe and the US have for many years have used these techniques to better position themselves in the market and make more profits.
Uganda has tried to invest in AI but in the wrong directions. Robotics as an area of AI provides very interesting solution but is very capital intensive hence a number of projects might not be scale able, it would however make more sense for developers to shift to other areas of AI like data analysis since they are not that capital intensive.



  1. most Ugandan leaders dont believe in technology…… because they call it “kids_modernity” they adamantly dont want to learn, believe and invest in technplogy.

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