#IamthefutureofAI: Rebecca Ryakitimbo

Join us this week for a deeper insight into Rebecca Ryakitimbo’s fascinating career journey at the intersection of technology and ethics. Learn how she uses her expertise to address gender gap in tech and increase inclusion of underrepresented voices in AI.

This interview is part of Women in AI Ethics (WAIE) “I am the future of AI” story series, which highlights multidisciplinary talent in AI by featuring inspiring career journeys of women and non-binary people from historically underrepresented groups in tech.

Can you share an incident that inspired you to join this space?

I have been working on digital inclusion for several years and in my quest to foster digital inclusion I started working on gender and technology gaps. It was in this work that I found myself delving into areas such as data protection then in 2021 I begun a fellowship at Mozilla working on voice technology for Kiswahili speakers this is were my foundation in AI ethics was really built as I started delving into trustworthy AI and data feminism.

How did you land your current role?

My quest for seeking gender digital inclusion brought me to this space where I started looking at things like feminist ethical principles, and design justice principles, and out of it started building gender guides and assessments for AI. It has been a journey that has unfolded as I seek to address gender gaps.

What kind of issues in AI do you tackle in your day-to-day work?

I work on bias, data protection and privacy, consent, and surveillance. I am currently a fellow at Mozilla Common Voice Project and our biggest task is to build an open voice dataset hence data privacy, and biases in voice algorithms that are built and in our dataset In itself is key in my role as someone who looks at gender and diversity.

If you have a non-traditional or non-technical background, what barriers did you encounter and how did you overcome them?


Why is more diversity — gender, race, orientation, socio-economic background, other — in the AI ethics space important?

Diversity decentralises AI, bridges gaps such as gender gaps, and most importantly ensures equal representation of different demographics in societies. For example, in voice technology space more diverse voice datasets ensure speech recognition is accurate for people of varying languages, accents, genders, ages, and other demographics hence tipping the scales to have marginalised communities as part of the AI space.

What is your advice to those from non-traditional backgrounds who want to do meaningful work in this space on how to overcome barriers like tech bro culture, lack of ethical funding/opportunities, etc.?

AI is a diverse field that needs to be observed from a multi-stakeholder approach hence there is room for individuals to bring their different expertise and apply them to AI. Build opportunities where you see there is a need for your skills to fill in, AI is not a one-gender field as its impact is far-reaching, especially to excluded communities.

Rebecca is a multifaceted individual with a passion for writing, research, technology, and ICT policy, particularly focusing on digital inclusion and rights. She earned her BSc. Electronics and Communications (Hons) from the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton in Kenya, laying the foundation for her journey in the realm of technology and policy. Her impact extends beyond the digital realm, as she is an active member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers in the Arusha Hub and a proud member of Junior Chambers International.

You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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