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Kenyan lecturer who allows students to use ChatGPT explains why [Video]

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner organised an AI Masterclass during #NADPAConference24 where interesting revelations came up on how Kenyans are using AI technology.

Qhala Head of Research and Strathmore University lecturer Njeri Ngaruiya Ng'ang'a, PhD conducting an AI Masterclass during the NADPA-RAPDP Conference held at the Windsor Golf Hotel in Nairobi on May 7, 2024
  • Strathmore University lecturer Njeri Ngaruiya Ng'ang'a, PhD allows her students to use ChatGPT but points out limitations of the generative AI
  • An AI chatbot that can process Swanglish (Kenyan Sheng') and Maseno University project developing a chatbot that can process local dialects
  • In the field of agriculture, AI was used to track migration patterns during the locust infestation of 2019

On May 7, 2024 the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in partnership with the Ministry of IC & DE officially opened the Network of African Data Protection Authorities (NADPA) Conference, now in its ninth year.

Among the activities slated for over 500 delegates in attendance was an AI Masterclass facilitated by Qhala Head of Research and Strathmore University lecturer, Njeri Ngaruiya Ng'ang'a, PhD.

In response to a question on whether AI is being applied in Kenyan schools, Dr Njeri outlined that embracing technology in the classroom is inescapable but she cautioned on its limitations.

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"I allow my students to use ChatGPT because they are already using it. When you ask about AI in universities, they actually say they use much of ChatGPT.

"But I actually know the 'handwriting' of ChatGPT, so the question is, can you [a student] bring out an [academic] argument with ChatGPT? I've administered an open CAT and for me, I need to see an argument coming up from that," she explained.

Multimedia University lecturer John Walubengo who also responded to the question noted that even when university students are not explicitly allowed to use generative AI in their assignments, it is evident that the tech is in wide use.

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"Old-school lecturers don't want to hear about ChatGPT and they are trying to fight it. I happen to be in between...I have no problem with ChatGPT but I appreciate the dangers with it.

"I teach networking and one of the more difficult sections of it is something called 'subnetting' - how to divide networks using a lot of mathematics. That assignment would usually take a week [for the student to complete] but now when I give it, it takes them a minute and it is correct. In fact, it is more correct than my marking scheme. So there's a bit of of a question there, are we teaching when we allow our students to use ChatGPT?" he posed.

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The AI Masterclass also highlighted other interesting use cases of artificial intelligence in Kenya, including chatbots and data analytics in various fields.

  1. Virtual Reality (VR) at Kangemi Primary School: Ukwenza VR has facilitated immersive experiential learning on the impact of plastic pollution on the environment through VR which incorporates AI technology.
  2. Tracking locust invasion in 2019: Agri-economist Lennox Ochieng explained how, between 2019 to 2021, the locust invasion in Samburu and Marsabit applied AI through microchips planted on select insects to track their migration in insecure areas and facilitated spraying to control the invasion.
  3. AI in farming: In the absence of government agricultural extension service officers, farmers are using apps fitted with AI computer vision models to track and eradicate crop diseases.
  4. Public service application: Through a partnership with German development agency GIZ, the ODPC chatbot was developed to process queries in English, Swahili and Swanglish (Kenyan Sheng').

The NADPA-RAPDP Conference will conclude on May 9, 2024 having been hosted in Kenya for the first time since the organisation was formed in Burkina Faso 2016.

The organisation aims to facilitate exchanges and cooperation among its members while amplifying Africa's voice in global data protection discussions.

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