The 8th of March marked International Women’s Day – a day to highlight and address the constraints that women face in the many facets of their lives. 

fraymedia Foundation, which officially launches on 25 May, used the opportunity to host the first of many seminars to talk about how women can lead and reshape the media landscape. The founder of fraycollege, Paula Fray and acting CEO of fraymedia Foundation, Charmeela Bhagowat were in conversation with brilliant women from a host of industries, including digital, news and media, entrepreneurship and art to share their insights on two specific topics: 

  1. How can we leverage Artificial Intelligence and technology in newsrooms
  2. How to start a business, and keep it growing [see part 2]

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term thrown around loosely to describe the use of human processes in machines and computer systems to increase efficiency and production. 

This is an excerpt of a definition of AI in journalism read out by Fray: 

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming various industries, and the field of journalism is no exception. In Africa, AI is being used to improve the quality and speed of news reporting, enhance data analysis, and streamline news distribution. AI can assist in the production of news, fact-checking, and analysis of data, among other tasks. With the growth of the internet and the rise of digital media, there is an increasing demand for fast, accurate, and relevant news, and AI is helping to meet that demand.”

Interestingly, the excerpt was written and developed by an artificial intelligence bot, ChatGPT. 

The rapid rise of AI has raised concerns about the future of our jobs if machines take over. It’s a topic that needs to be interrogated and understood before we embrace it fully or rule it out completely. 

Read the full conversation on Twitter.

Kristophina Shilongo, Mozilla Senior Tech Policy fellow with a background in digital communications, economic policy and technology highlighted that while AI and technology present many opportunities for creativity and innovation in journalism and media, there are some risks that we must be wary of. 

These are information disorders such as spreading disinformation, misinformation and fake news. Additionally, it could also play a role in perpetuating gender and racial biases. Shilongo, whose work is centred around critically examining the extent to which data is governed, shared, and used for the public good, said that AI could also increase the risk of surveillance by different entities and in some cases, governments. 

But if used ethically and with rigid and strong policies in place, technology and AI can be used to advance media and journalism. 

Therefore, the media has three key responsibilities in ensuring that AI is leveraged and used in a safe and ethical way. These are: 

  • Advocate for public and private sector policies to protect the right to privacy and freedom of expression. The media should keep the public informed on different media policies, and practice ethical journalism that does not perpetuate harmful stereotypes. 
  • Advocate for evidence-based policies and laws that will enable smaller businesses to own and innovate their own businesses, and at the same time, encourage innovators to create solutions that fit their organisation. 
  • Hold big tech to account, and advise policy leaders to make it mandatory for big tech to release public data to ensure small businesses are not stifled. 

While Shilongo spoke about the risks of AI spreading fake news, Kate Wilkinson, a Senior Product Manager at UK-based fact-checking company, Full Fact, is using AI to counter fake news and misinformation. Wilkinson was previously the deputy editor of Africa Check. 

Wilkinson pointed out how laborious fact-checking can be, especially when trying to filter through troves of information from different platforms – both online and offline. She said introducing AI into the process reduced the pressure of having to scour through the different platforms to find claims to fact-check. AI could also help fact-checkers find the most important claim that needs to be fact-checked on any given day. 

“Due to resource constraints and the manual labour, AI could help fact-checkers find the most important thing to fact-check in a single day and reduce the time, effort and resources they spend on manually monitoring the landscape,” she said. 

Additionally, AI helped increase the impact of fact-checkers’ work. Wilkinson said on some occasions a false claim, that has already been fact-checked, can resurface, so they built a claim-matching tool called “Alerts” that informs fact-checkers when claims resurface. She said this effectively gives fact-checkers the opportunity to amplify the fact either by requesting a correction or writing a press release.

“We increase the return on that initial investment – that initial fact check –  so that they can increase their impact on society on increasing accuracy, on holding people accountable with very little further investment,” she said.  

Lastly, Full Fact is also in the process of developing a live statistical verification tool which enables them to find facts in real-time and send them to journalists to debunk immediately, thus lessening the likelihood of spreading false claims in a fast-paced media environment.

The conversations around artificial intelligence, technology, machine learning and adaptability prompted Mo Malele, an artist, poet, storyteller, entrepreneur and marketer to raise a pertinent point: the role of humans in the process. 

“There still needs to be a human at some point in the value chain of what that technology is going to deliver. Whether it’s the policies we are going to deliver, whether it’s the human beings who are living in this era of AI. We’re seeing what it actually means, tangibly, for us as humanity. Whether it’s as a fact-checker checking the facts and checking that the AI is actually doing what it’s supposed to be doing, or if the AI is giving me false information to then report on,” she said. 

Malele’s line of work is in strengthening e-commerce in townships to help informal traders grow their businesses. She said they use technology to connect these businesses with people to ensure that when the world stops, business continues. 

Addressing the fears of job losses in the technological climate, Malele said we must remember: “Technology changes the work, but it doesn’t change the fact that the work still needs to be done.” 

In this context, her work is also rooted in ensuring that as technology changes, people who cannot access technology are not left behind.

Speaking of women in the development process of technology, Malele said that it’s important to remember that “women are the agents of the economy.” Including them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is as important as empowering younger girls to follow in those footsteps, and incorporating their needs, experiences and visions in the development of technology, because representation matters. 

As we look ahead, the three women said they are more excited about the opportunities that AI presents for them in their respective fields, and more so how other businesses, creators and news reporters can adapt to its uses to make their work more efficient. 

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