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Tunisia Launches its First Public AI Institute

Pioneering AI Education in Tunisia

Tunisia is set to launch its first public institute dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI) at the University of Tunis, starting in the upcoming academic year in September. This announcement was made by Moncef Boukthir, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, during a seminar titled ‘AI for a resilient economy’ held on 16 and 17 April.

The Vision

Boukthir emphasized the importance of expanding the application of AI in Tunisia while ensuring the ethical use and protection of citizens’ data. He highlighted the commitment of the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to promote Tunisia’s 2035 vision. This vision aims to foster a knowledge-based society by developing AI programs across various Tunisian institutions. It leverages Tunisia’s proven ability to train qualified resources in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

International Collaboration

The minister reiterated Tunisia’s appeal to the international community to sign a memorandum of agreement. This agreement would commit all signatory countries to ensure the safe and positive use of AI. This view aligns with a 2023 study titled, ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Sustainable Development Goals: An exploratory study in the context of the Society domain’. The study highlighted how AI’s responsible, safe, and ethical usage can contribute positively to achieving the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

AI Readiness

The 2023 Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index (AIRI) ranked Tunisia 81 out of 193 indexed countries. Among the top five African countries included in the index, Tunisia ranked fourth, following Mauritius, Egypt, and South Africa, and ahead of Rwanda. The index, issued by global consulting firm Oxford Insights and the International Development Research Centre, measures governments’ readiness to use AI technologies.

Challenges and Opportunities

Professor Mohamed Jaoua, the dean of the Pristini School of AI, welcomed the launch of the new AI institute. He emphasized the need for an appropriate pedagogy to teach AI to everyone, not just experts. He also highlighted the importance of understanding the ethical and societal challenges that come with every disruptive change.

Professor Sami Hammami, the former vice-president of the University of Sfax in Tunisia, also welcomed the initiative. He stressed the importance of training graduates in new technologies to promote technological start-ups and meet Tunisia’s economic, industrial, and technological challenges.

Tunisia’s First Public AI Institute

Regional Role

Béchir Allouch, a technology professor at the Virtual University of Tunis, believes that Tunisia can play a pioneering role in AI training in the region and on the African continent. He suggested that the new institution should establish itself as a center of expertise in AI at the national level as soon as possible.

XN Iraki, an associate professor of data science, innovation, and technology management at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, sees AI as the next frontier. He believes that such an institute and other regional centers are a positive step forward to help Africa get a firm footing in her quest to apply AI for good.

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