Four students reading for a master’s degree at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) will be awarded scholarships between 2022 and 2024.
The scholarships are awarded to students in the fields of computer science, machine learning and robotics.
Research shows that Machine Learning is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.
According to Wits Vice-Chancellor Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, the evolving nature of innovations powered by AI means that those involved in the field will be able to drive change at every level of society.
Vilakazi said researchers in this area will help solve problems facing society locally and internationally, and drive innovations that will impact how future generations use technology.
“We need to train scholars to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century, some which we may not yet have encountered.
“The new world order, including the use of quantum computing, biotech, big data, internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence, has the potential to vanquish routine jobs that we take for granted today – and create new ones that we cannot yet envision,” said Vilakazi.
He added that the fields of AI, data science, robotics, machine learning, and other related fields offer great opportunities for South Africa and Africa to play a part in developing and innovating solutions and shaping them to deal with our realities.
Obum Ekeke, Global Lead for University Relations & Education Partnerships at DeepMind said the spirit of the donation and the DeepMind Scholarships is to increase diversity in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and to increase the representation of the groups currently most underrepresented in these fields.
Ekeke said they are proud to help support the next generation of AI researchers and engineers in Africa.
He said preference would be afforded to South African citizens from underrepresented groups, including black students and women.
“It will also be open to international students, with a preference to residents of sub-Saharan African states,” said Ekeke.
Wits is one of only three African universities selected to host DeepMind Scholarships, alongside Stellenbosch University and Makerere University in Uganda.
Vilakazi added that AI is an important building block and key driver in the Wits digital transformation suite of centenary projects, of which artificial intelligence and machine learning is a key driver.
Associate professor in the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Wits, Benjamin Rosman said this is an exciting recognition of Wits’ role as a leader in Machine Learning and AI in Africa.
“Enabled by this support from DeepMind, Wits will bring an even broader range of African talent to the global conversation in cutting-edge AI research,” said Rosman.
Ekeke said the scholarships will provide tuition fees, a stipend, plus conference and equipment funding for two Masters students who aim to complete their degree through dissertation over two years, as well as for two students who enrol in a Master’s programme through coursework and dissertation over two years.