Developing an Undergraduate AI Course for the Global South

IEEE Computer Society Team
Published 10/09/2022
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The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), which is driven by robotics, automated systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT), is built on a solid foundation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and knowledge. For the global South, such as African countries, a confident stride into the 4IR requires a systematic approach to teaching AI at the undergraduate level. Here’s how a group of researchers and professors created an undergrad AI course in Namibia that considered the region’s unique needs.

Plug-in Campus

The venue for the AI course involved a plug-in campus, a physical extension of a central university. The campus is connected to a host university, enabling the two to collaborate and share resources. The plug-in campus was based in Finland and connected to the base university in Namibia.

The Approach

The course lasted 12 weeks and included students from the University of Namibia and the University of Turku. It consisted of six general topics:

  1. AI in Horse Coaching. This involved a dive into how AI can monitor the motion of horses through sensors to detect issues in their movements.
  2. AI in Digital Art. This course focused on the creation of non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
  3. AI and Ethics. This course familiarized students with the ethical implications of AI technology and its use.
  4. Machine Learning. In this guest lecture, students dove into the major facets of machine learning: supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning.
  5. IoT for Development. In this course, students learned how AI could be used to develop IoT solutions.
  6. Project prototype presentations. Students presented their project prototypes, and the audience included Ms. Iina Soiri, the Education and Science Counselor of the Embassy of Finland in Pretoria, South Africa.

Massive Open Online Course

Students also took a free massive open online course. This consisted of a range of assignments, including:

  • Defining AI
  • Introduction to the philosophy of AI
  • AI in problem-solving
  • The basics of probability, machine learning, and neural networks
  • The societal implications of AI

The Prototypes

Students created physical prototypes based on AI technology, including:

  • The Vertical Garden Prototype. This uses sensors to monitor plants and alert farmers when water or nutrient levels are insufficient or if there’s an intruder.
  • The Smart Flower Prototype. The Smart Flower Prototype is made from an Arduino board powered by AI that interacts with students, teaching them the colors the Arduino produces.

Presentations and Discussions

The students presented their AI projects, each focusing on ways AI could help pave the way for the 4IR in Namibia and elsewhere in the global South.

For example, students presented to the Namibia Scientific Society how AI could be used in learning and farming. Students also discussed what they learned while developing their projects, and audience members shared thoughts and concerns about the implications of AI. Overall, those present grew in both their understanding of and appreciation for AI as a potential catalyst in the African region.

Students left the course invigorated by the role they can play in guiding Africa’s journey through the 4IR. In this way, the course helped foster a more robust future for AI in the region — and the rest of the world. To get more details on the effectiveness of this approach, download the full report today, “Towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Namibia: An Undergraduate AI Course Africanized” — and explore the Computer Society Digital Library for the most recent tech developments.


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