This is no coincidence. On September 28, while my daughters and I had a fatherly banter, I suddenly wondered what opportunity and new normal the Covid-19 crisis offers us as a nation vis-à-vis education and the role decision makers ought to play in order to contrive strategically and keep pace with global trends—current, emerging and prospective.
While I processed it, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) popped up. But when I asked my teenage daughter, who is in one of the top national schools in Kampala, about them, she seemed clueless.
On the sidelines, my mind mused rather intently on Albert Einstein’s quote, “In the midst of every crisis, lies opportunity.”
To be sure I got it word-for-word, I searched the Internet—for any alteration. In my search, I chanced on, “AI: an opportunity amidst a crisis–PwC India”, PricewaterhouseCoopers’ study December 2020 findings, downloadable on-line. For this article, I will, hereunder, specifically replicate the part that expressively reinforced my thoughts on the terms:
Rethink; Crisis; Opportunity; and Artificial Intelligence: “As organisations repair, rethink and reconfigure their business models to navigate the uncertainties of the post Covid-19 world, they have started realising the potential of digital and cognitive technologies to increase resilience, spot growth opportunities and drive innovation. Our annual survey of CXOs and decision makers has revealed that as we emerge from the current crisis, optimism with regard to AI has gone up significantly from 72 percent to 92 percent, and the rate of AI adoption has increased from 62 percent to 70 percent. Further, 90 percent of the respondents claim they have either implemented or are planning to implement AI in their organisations… To get the best out of AI, all businesses need to start viewing it as a necessity rather than luxury.”
For the benefit of readers to whom robotics and AI are new, let me relay their meanings, and later tackle why, going forward, we shall inevitably need them as a country.
Robotics is “a branch of engineering that involves the conception, design, manufacture and operation of robots” while AI is “the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems.”
Robotics largely involve AI. Robots may be equipped with the equivalent of human senses such as vision, touch, and the ability to sense temperature—some even capable of simple decision making.
The objective of robotics, however, is to create intelligent machines to assist human operations and not to replace them.
Do we really—or shall we ever need robotics and AI in Uganda? I reminisce rhymes we sang as children, pointing to, “The world is revolving on a wheel; let’s also revolve with it in order not be left behind.”
Technologically, the world is, indeed, revolving undeniably super-fast. We must keep pace with it. For instance, the aforesaid study, again, noted: “Our global and India surveys reveal that companies that had invested in AI before Covid-19 were generally better able to deal with the challenges and, as a result, they have increased their investment in AI since the pandemic. Unfortunately, companies that failed to go digital and adopt AI before the pandemic have struggled to survive ...”
Does Uganda’s story read better? Fortunately, robotics is already being taught here, but only in scattered international schools.
As we seek to recover from the nearly two-year school closure, I advocate it be taught in all national schools at all levels. The National Curriculum Development Centre could work out age-appropriate breakdowns.
Schools must emphasise the 4Cs, too: critical thinking; creativity; collaboration and Communication to produce globally compliant graduates.
Mr Patrick Katagata Jr, former MP aspirant, Buhweju County. [email protected]