Workshop at the Deep Learning Indaba 2023: Building a Global Network of AI Researchers on AI and the United Nations SDGs  


The motivation supporting this workshop is that contributing to the SDGs through AI could represent a win-win approach in which not only the goals themselves receive due attention but moreover this attention will be shared and integrated and allow a fruitful North-South cooperation.

The workshop will provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of analyses of projects, initiatives and existing research networks with emphasis on identifying a portfolio of AI projects addressing SDGs. Particular interest will be placed on presentations that consider alternative ways of using AI for SDGs where it can be argued that they will aim towards creating communities around the SDG themes and thus introduce the sustainability and scalability of AI research networks.

The workshop will focus on understanding how and when AI is successful in addressing the different SDG challenges and will aim at providing opportunities to integrate more research expertise – and more diverse research expertise in these tasks.

Goals and objectives and expected outcomes:

We hope to assess and deepen our understanding of AI capacity and use in the North-South relationship with the aim of developing a capacity building agenda. An overall medium-term objective is to run the NAIXUS Global Network of Excellence in AI cross-cutting all regions of the world to address and contribute to sustainable development through the responsible and inclusive design and deployment of AI for SDGs.

The goal of such a global network is to engrain the principles of the SDGs into the awareness of AI researchers. NAIXUS has 40 members, 9 are from Africa; African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), AI Laboratory at the University of the Witwatersrand (RAIL), Data Scientists Network Foundation, Kabarak University, Masakhane Research Foundation, University of Pretoria, University of Cape Coast, Tanzania AI Lab & Community and Deep Learning Indaba.

The network will release a call for proposals across its members and specifically the African partners communities and networks to fill the lightning talks slots and at the same time schedule its first face to face meeting before/after the workshop co-organised by AIMS. The lightning talks will be presentations of papers that will be used as a pilot for the launch of the “Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Sustainable Development” currently being designed by IRCAI and implemented at AIMS in Muizenberg, Cape Town. If necessary the workshop can be divided into two parts over two days.



Welcome and setting the stage

NAIXUS, Network for Artificial Intelligence, Knowledge and SUStainable Development – a nexus and central meeting point between AI and SDGs or how can a Global Network of AI researchers be built and what are the benefits?
Chair: Davor Orlic, COO at IRCAI and Knowledge 4 All Foundation

  • John Shawe Taylor, Director at IRCAI, UNESCO Chair in Artificial Intelligence
  • Maria Fasli, University of Essex, UNESCO Chair in Data Science and Analytics
  • Shakir Mohamed, Research Director, Google DeepMind & Founder, Deep Learning Indaba

Invited talk
Chair: Davor Orlic, COO at IRCAI and Knowledge 4 All Foundation

African Languages – The science behind cracking the Language Barrier for a Multilingual Africa, and what more?
Pelonomi Moiloa, CEO at Lelapa.AI


Lightning talks session 1: Machine Learning Algorithms

Chair: John Shawe Taylor, Director at IRCAI, UNESCO Chair in Artificial Intelligence 

  •  AI and Climate Information Needs in Africa (10 min), Hannah Brown, University of Pretoria
  • Mangrove Extent Mapping Using Machine Learning and a Fusion of Optical and Radar Images (10 min), Daniel Aja, Africa Center of Excellence in Coastal Resilience, Center for Coastal Management, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
  • Geo-semantic surveillance and clustering of crime locations and social risk hotspots using print media reports (10 min), Toyib Ogunremi, Junior Data Analyst, DSN
12:30‑14:00 Lunch Break

Lightning talks session 2: Position papers

 Chairs: Maria Fasli, University of Essex, UNESCO Chair in Data Science and Analytics 

  • From Pixels to Plastic: Charting a Path to Detect, Track, and Count Oceanic Plastic Pollution through Computer Vision (15 min)
  • Waste collection and management system (15 min), Dongmo Wandji Chelsie Carel, Data Science Student, National Advanced School of Engineering Yaounde, Cameroon
  • Predicting the Nature of Terrorist Attacks in Nigeria Using Bayesian Neural Network Model (10 min), Tayo Peter Ogundunmade, Department of Statistics, University of Ibadan

Lightning talks session 3: Systems and applications

 Chairs: Essa Mohamedali, Tanzania AI lab & Community 

  • Leveraging Large Language Models for Improving Agricultural Extension in Nigeria (10 min), Oladimeji Samuel Sowole
  • AI for Complex Adaptive Systems in Agric-Food Chains: Enterprise Architecture Perspectives (10 min), Ronald Tombe, Kisii University, Kenya
  • Towards an AI to Win Ghana’s National Science and Maths Quiz (10 min), Dr. George Jojo Boateng, CEO and Cofounder, Kwame AI

Panel discussion Towards a research agenda concerning AI for Sustainable Development, on the challenges and opportunities that are raised by the application of AI to Sustainable Development:

Chair: Stephen Moore, University of Cape Coast

  • John Shawe Taylor, Director at IRCAI, UNESCO Chair in Artificial Intelligence
  • Maria Fasli, University of Essex, UNESCO Chair in Data Science and Analytics
  • Kathleen Siminyu, Mozilla Kiswahili Machine Learning Fellow
  • Ian Omung, African Leadership University, School of Computing, Mauritius, Amathambo AI CFO/Research Science, Vectorgram Health CEO/Research Engineering
16:00 Wrap-up and final words

Call for workshop papers:

The Naixus network of excellence is organizing a 1-day workshop of experts in Artificial Intelligence addressing scalable solutions or exemplars for SDGs with an emphasis on creating potential sub-networks of researchers around each of the 17 SDGs. The result of the workshop will be to build the global ML/AI landscape for SDGs, understand the scope of a potential Network of Excellence in AI across all regions and provide inputs for an AI roadmap for SDGs, including designing a viable plan for cross-continent cooperation. We solicit three categories of papers: research papers, on-going work papers, and position/vision papers.

  • Research papers present use cases of AI for the SDGs. They may present platforms or systems or in-the-field projects; they may require the development of novel AI tools.
  • On-going work may cover any aspect of the development of new AI tools and methodologies to address SDGs. In this case the project or action may not be terminated, and, especially in those cases where the expected impact is long-term, the evaluation may be incomplete.
  • Position/Vision papers may concern untouched challenges or the use of technologies which up to now have not been tested on the ground.

Topics should address (at least some of) the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  • Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  • Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning
  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
  • Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
  • Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  • Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  • Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
  • Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
  • Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
  • Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

All papers should be a maximum 6 pages in length. Position papers can be shorter (2 pages). One additional page of cited references is allowed. You may also attach full papers of any format or length that supplement your submission, but we do not guarantee to take these into account in the reviewing process. You may submit work that has previously been published — but please give details of how it has previously been published. Our review process will not be blind: please submit your contributions as PDFs containing the authors’ names. In order to encourage submissions from as many regions as possible conditional submissions are possible: the authors may send in their contribution even if the financial backing necessary to attend the conference is not yet secured. The organizers will attempt to help find sponsors. We intend to make accepted contributions available online, linked to the workshop page. There will be no formal published proceedings.

Submission is via Deep Learning Indaba call for papers.