According to the duo, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of digital solutions to contemporary ways of living and service delivery — both in the corporate and public sectors.

The duo says that, while this trend had been evident for some time, the global lockdowns and their implications for business, education, food production, job creation and other necessary services has elevated the value of employing digital solutions — including artificial intelligence systems.

HSRC and Facebook report that AI technological developments pose new and complex questions regarding ethics and social impact, which require both industry and researchers to collaborate, to enable understanding and most importantly, appropriate and relevant ways to navigate this complexity. Such an approach will also ensure the protection of citizens, their data and their privacy.

The new research initiative complements Facebook's existing efforts to bolster independent research being undertaken in these areas, such as on-going AI and ethics research support in Asia Pacific, India and Latin America and the TUM Institute for Ethics in AI.

It is also appropriate for the HSRC to lead this initiative in South Africa and Africa, since it is the premier science council charged with understanding the social implications of change and development, says the duo.

This initiative invites requests for proposals for research on ethics, human rights and AI in Africa by research organisations registered and operational across the African region, to be coordinated by the HSRC.

Proposals will be reviewed by a selection committee and the entities whose proposals are selected will receive a research grant. Applications will close on Thursday, 30 July at 17:00 CAT and successful applicants will be informed by October 2020.

For more information, visit You can also follow HSRC on Facebook or on Twitter