The advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) requires the presence of Black women. At least, the Mozilla Foundation’s Eyitemi Popo seems to think so.
Popo has worked with the global nonprofit as program manager, technical relationships, for over two and a half years, and she was hired on to lead developer-focused strategy around ethical AI strategy. When she became interested in AI, it was essential that she positioned herself as an authority within the space.
“When I watch the news, I’m always trying to look for where are trends heading. What’s the thing to be paying attention to? And for a while now it’s been AI for me,” she told AfroTech. “I graduated in 2012, so things hadn’t fully recovered from the ’08 economic crisis. And with AI, I just feel like I didn’t want to miss that train. So, I was very intentional about trying to get there on time and be a part of the industry as things were just taking off, so that I could find a place in it.”
Currently, Popo is aligned with the Mozilla Foundation’s mission to establish a healthy internet. During the early 2000s, the nonprofit changed the browser landscape by creating Firefox.
In more recent years, the organization has a laser focus on the use of AI.
“I feel like Mozilla, because of that history, we’re trying to do the same thing in this AI space,” Popo explained. “We’re trying to create a world where it isn’t just the big guys that will dominate this space, but we’re creating some open-source tools around AI and we’re trying to educate people on the harms of AI.”
A noteworthy project highlighted by Popo is the Kwanele mobile app, which integrates an AI chatbot powered by GPT-3 that helps individuals who have been victimized by gender-based violence.
According to information on the Mozilla Foundation’s website, the chatbot assists the user in reporting gender-based violence, with the guidance of a trauma-informed talk therapist and also answers questions associated to legislation such as the Protection from Harassment Act and the Criminal Law Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act.
Kwanele, based in South Africa, worked closely with MozFest Trustworthy AI for guidance from ethical AI team members. The company attended workshops and received mentorship from the Mozilla team.
“They are creating an app that helps women who have been victimized by rape,” Popo detailed. “So, they’ve created this AI chatbot that responds in the moment. If you’ve just experienced a trauma, you can go onto their app and talk to a bot to get more information around how you should preserve evidence, so that can lead to higher rates of conviction.”
She continued, “We helped them build that chatbot for correctness in terms of giving the right information in the moment, but also making sure that there’s empathy in how the information is delivered and also giving you the right resources to help you deal with your trauma in the moment.”
The efforts alongside Kwanele are a reminder of the greater good of AI, which can be possible with collaboration.
All in all, there is still much progression to be made in AI. Popo hopes to see more rely on the expertise of Black women, as this demographic has already brought to light the wide range of problems in AI that continue to be overlooked.
“The lens we bring to technology is so interesting because we see a lot of the blind spots that the people who created it don’t and I know we always complain about black people being consumers more than builders and I feel like this AI revolution is our opportunity to really be builders,” said Popo.