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One Nigerian woman’s fight against algorithmic bias and racism in computing, By Okezue Bell


In the bustling metropolis of Lagos, Nigeria, a fearless woman named Adaora Udoji is taking on the formidable challenge of algorithmic bias and racism in computing. A tech entrepreneur and AI ethicist, Adaora is paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable digital landscape in Nigeria. This is her story, a tale of passion, resilience, and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Chapter 1: The Spark

Adaora’s journey began when she experienced the consequences of biased algorithms firsthand. A misdiagnosis from an AI-powered diagnostic tool, designed without consideration for her Nigerian heritage, left her grappling with a serious but treatable skin condition. This incident ignited a passion within Adaora to understand and combat algorithmic bias and racism in computing.

Chapter 2: Building a Movement

Determined to make a difference, Adaora set out to build a community of like-minded individuals. She began hosting workshops and seminars, educating people about algorithmic bias and the broader implications of racism in computing. Adaora’s tireless efforts soon captured the attention of Nigeria’s tech community, and her movement gained momentum.

Chapter 3: Creating Impact

Adaora’s crusade against algorithmic bias led her to collaborate with a team of developers to create AI-driven healthcare applications tailored to Nigeria’s diverse population. She advocated for the use of inclusive datasets and ethical AI development practices to ensure that these applications served the needs of all Nigerians, regardless of their ethnicity or socioeconomic background.

Chapter 4: Overcoming Challenges

Despite her successes, Adaora faced numerous obstacles along the way. Confronting deeply entrenched biases and navigating bureaucratic red tape, she tirelessly lobbied government officials and industry leaders to adopt policies and practices that promoted fairness, accountability, and transparency in AI development.

Chapter 5: Inspiring Change

Adaora’s relentless efforts have begun to bear fruit, inspiring a new generation of Nigerian tech professionals to join the fight against algorithmic bias and racism in computing. She has not only sparked a revolution within Nigeria’s digital ecosystem but has also become a leading voice on the global stage, advocating for a more inclusive and equitable future in technology.

Adaora Udoji’s story serves as a powerful testament to the indomitable human spirit, as well as the transformative potential of technology when harnessed for the greater good. In the face of daunting challenges, she has emerged as a beacon of hope, shining a light on the path to a more just and inclusive digital world for Nigeria and beyond.

As artificial intelligence (AI) technology becomes increasingly integrated into our daily lives, concerns over algorithmic bias and its impact on society have grown. From facial recognition software to AI-driven hiring processes, algorithmic bias can lead to discrimination and further marginalisation of under represented groups. In this article, we explore the concept of algorithmic bias, the major players addressing this issue, and the groundbreaking work of Joy Buolamwini and her project, Gender Shades.

Algorithmic bias refers to systematic errors in a computer system that produce unfair outcomes. This can occur when an algorithm learns from flawed data that perpetuates stereotypes or excludes certain populations. Consequently, AI-driven systems can make biased decisions, exacerbating existing inequalities.

There are several organisations and researchers committed to fighting algorithmic bias. Notably, the AI Ethics Lab, the AI Now Institute, and OpenAI have been working to develop ethical guidelines and raise awareness about the potential consequences of biased AI systems.

Among the most influential voices in the field is Joy Buolamwini, a Ghanaian-American computer scientist and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League (AJL). Buolamwini’s work has been pivotal in bringing attention to the issue of algorithmic bias, particularly in facial recognition technology.

In her seminal project, Gender Shades, Buolamwini investigated the accuracy of facial recognition algorithms from three major tech companies: IBM, Microsoft, and Face++. She found that these systems performed poorly when identifying darker-skinned and female faces, with error rates up to 34.7% for darker-skinned women. Conversely, the error rates for lighter-skinned men were as low as 0.8%. This disparity revealed a significant racial and gender bias within the algorithms.

Buolamwini’s Gender Shades study highlighted the dangers of deploying biased AI systems, sparking a broader conversation about the need for diversity and inclusion in technology. In response, tech giants like IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon have taken steps to address the biases in their facial recognition software and are committed to improving the fairness and accuracy of their AI systems.

In addition to her work with the AJL, Buolamwini has been an advocate for regulatory oversight of AI technologies. Her efforts have helped shape policy recommendations for governments and influenced tech companies to take algorithmic bias more seriously.

As AI continues to permeate various aspects of our lives, addressing algorithmic bias is crucial to ensure equitable treatment for all. The work of Joy Buolamwini and other pioneers in the field serves as a vital reminder that technology should not perpetuate inequality but rather promote fairness and justice.

About the Author

Okezue Bell is a Nigerian-American inventor and activist. He’s the founder of two social tech enterprises that have won over $400,000 and supported nearly 11,000 vulnerable individuals and hosts STEM workshops around the globe that have reached over 75,000 students globally.

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