Wasuze otya nno?
That’s good morning in Luganda
This newsletter is designed to be brief. You’re a busy person and Monday morning is usually the busiest time of the week, so I try to keep things short and insightful.
That said, there are some topics that I feel 500 or so words don’t do justice to, and I’ve been looking for ways to go deeper without affecting the structure of the newsletter.
My latest experiment is to publish longer-form articles on other platforms.
Last week, I wrote an op-ed for TechCabal on facial recognition being used for law enforcement around Africa. It’s a call for policymakers to pause programs (which I refer to as Big Brother-as-a-service) from vendors such as Huawei.
Why is this important?
As recently as 2019, studies
found that even top-performing facial recognition systems misidentified blacks at rates five to ten times higher than they did whites.
What this means is that, in Africa, a continent where black people make up 60-70% of the population, there’s potential for great harm. Think wrongful arrests and false convictions, think being picked up for a crime that someone else committed because an AI system mistook you for that person.
International forces: As a result of the studies I referred to, the big US AI companies have either paused or stopped using their solutions to support law enforcement, but the Chinese AI companies operating in Africa continue to use the technology unchallenged.
Many of Africa’s governments are looking for newer ways to surveil their citizens. A recent report
found that boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis) are now part of the Ugandan government’s surveillance system. But while a lot of the criticism of such systems has been about privacy and digital authoritarianism, I’m questioning whether they are even good enough, to begin with.
You can read the article here