AI scepticism: Exploring Ghana’s perspectives in a new documentary

AI scepticism: Exploring Ghana’s perspectives in a new documentary

Written by NADJA editors

Photo: screengrab from ‘AI: Saving Lives and Languages in Ghana’

Journalist Sophia Smith Galer is behind a new investigative documentary that explores the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in Ghana. ‘AI: Saving Lives and Languages in Ghana’, looks at the attitudes and experiences behind Ghanaians’ negative perceptions of AI. 

The documentary delves into findings from the World Risk Poll, a global study of risks to people’s safety by Lloyd’s Register Foundation, which found that many Ghanaians felt AI would do more harm than good over the next 20 years.

The poll surveyed 125,000 people across 121 countries on multiple topics, and found that 47% of respondents in Ghana felt AI was potentially harmful compared to 28% who viewed it as helpful. The results are particularly interesting as in recent years Ghana has taken a pioneering role in developing new AI systems, with Google’s first Africa Artificial Intelligence lab opening in 2019. 

The documentary examines these results, exploring the use of AI and machine learning in various applications, including bridging the gap in translation apps and services that have previously neglected the diversity of Ghanaian languages. Smith Galer also looks into the work behind Khaya, the first translation app for Ghanaian languages, and Wikimedia’s efforts to expand the presence of the West African Dagbani language online. 

Smith Galer is a British journalist who became one of the BBC’s first reporters to share content on TikTok, using the platform to cover gender, reproductive health rights and digital culture. She is also the author of ‘Losing It: Sex Education for the 21st Century’. In 2022 she was one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for marketing and media in Europe, and she has also been short-listed on British Vogue’s list of the Top 25 Most Influential Women in the UK.

AI scepticism in Ghana 

Taking to the streets of Accra, Smith Galer heard from people who felt AI would take away jobs, while others felt scared of how it is currently used and it will be used in the future. 

She also visited the Accra-based biotechnology company MinoHealth AI Labs to find out more about the application of AI in healthcare to make screening and diagnoses quicker. Filming also took place at a press day at Google’s Africa Artificial Intelligence lab to see how AI is being used to improve data on critical infrastructure and severe weather event prediction in the region.

“The Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll data around AI demonstrated a clear trend in which nations at the forefront of AI development were more confident in it and late adopters less so,” she explains. “With that in mind, the findings from Ghana really stood out to me. With an AI-positive government and a strong developer community, you would perhaps expect a similarly positive view from Ghanaians overall, but that didn’t seem to be the case. 

“I wanted to find out why this was, as AI is a topic that greatly interests me and there are many positive examples of AI being developed and used in the country to empower people,” she adds. “I therefore suggested to Lloyd’s Register Foundation that I explore these findings further and was thrilled when they approved my proposal. Thanks to their commission, I was able to spend two weeks in Ghana looking into different AI projects and investigating why this scepticism exists.”

Watch AI: Saving Lives and Languages in Ghana here.  


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