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Deployment of AI essential to boost productivity in critical sectors of Nigerian economy –Inuwa

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of NITDA, Delivering a Keynote Address at the 2023 Security and Spokespersons Awards and Conference, in Abuja, FCT

*Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency, highlights the benefits of emerging technologies, and explains how Artificial Intelligence is already changing daily lives while improving human health, safety and productivity in the digital ecosystem

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Nigeria’s National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has restated the need to explore and deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI)  in boosting productivity in critical sectors of the country’s economy.

ConsumerConnect reports the Information Technology (IT) regulatory agency noted this as the world increasingly leverages cutting-edge technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) in shaping lives and businesses in economies.

Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of NITDA, said this in his Keynote Address on “Artificial Intelligence: Effective Communication for National Security” delivered at the 2023 Security and Spokespersons Awards and Conference, in Abuja, FCT.

Acknowledging the fact that AI is already changing daily lives, almost entirely in ways that improve human health, safety, and productivity, Inuwa averred that AI is beyond a tool.

The Director-General of the agency also declared that the new technology is a new way of building a relationship between humans and machines in the digital ecosystem.

Inuwa explained: “In building that relationship, we need to look beyond just having a tool we use for our daily activities and start thinking in the direction of developing a system which can help meet certain human needs.”

Benefits of emerging technologies

While highlighting some of the benefits of emerging technologies, particularly Artificial Intelligence, Inuwa also stated that the algorithm, which is the AI that powers the Social Media, is a machine that needs to be trained and controlled, in order to avoid it spiralling out of control.

He further said: “Due to the happenings on Social Media, industry practitioners are pushing for ‘explainability in the AI’, also referred to as ‘black box’ within the AI algorithm.

“Imagine having a system that makes decisions for us, and does not understand the way it came about making that decision, now, that is indeed a red flag, having AI go out of control.

“So, we need to get AI to be always for humanity, because it is the most existential threat to humanity today.”

Inuwa equally submitted that “countries around the world are making efforts at deciphering the functionalities of Artificial Intelligence, and coming up with policies and putting standards in place to ensure they are AI ready countries, and so Nigeria cannot take the back seat.”

The Director-General stated: “In Nigeria, we are looking at it from three perspectives: having AI ready principles, data and AI ready security.

“This invariably means that as a matter of principle, we should have redlines that AI must not cross.

“To achieve this, last year we started our journey by crowdsourcing on how to build National AI Policy, and we have the first draft ready.”

Presidential mandate to accelerate economic diversification

According to Inuwa, “when the present administration came onboard, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu mandated the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy to accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy by enhancing productivity in critical sectors through technological innovation, and we strongly believe that to achieve this, AI is our best tool to use in that regard.”

He also disclosed “to take this further, we launched a call for research, where we are offering a grant to forty five Nigerians to do research on Artificial Intelligence, so that we get a feedback on how to use AI in Health, Education, Agriculture, Finance, Security and many more.

“We are giving up to N5 million to each researcher because we want to co-create and design the policy collaboratively, not the government using arm chair theories to come up with the policies, we need everybody to be onboard.”

He as well stressed the need to intensify efforts at connecting the unconnected in order for them to be digitally visible ahead of the AI adoption and deployment in the country.

If they are infeasible, Inuwa explained, the AI will not consider them while making decisions.

The NITDA Chief Executive threw more light on other perspectives, including data and security, and sued for global standards for the regulation of AI.

He stated in his Keynote Address: “We are seeing how AI is becoming biased, gender-biased, and even exhibiting racist behaviour, partly because of the data used to develop it.

“So, if you develop an AI system and train it in another country and decide to take it elsewhere, it will not work. Hence, the need for global data for everyone’s use to train it.”

Harnessing Nigeria’s  resources, talents and youthful population to advantage

On the need to harness the country’s abundant resources, talents and youthful population, Inuwa affirmed that Nigeria has a competitive advantage in becoming the frontier in digital technological innovation.

He further said: “Although we lost out during the first, second and third Industrial Revolutions because they needed capital investment but in the fourth, we can use our talents to compete with any country in the world, given the fact that talent is the human component of technology.

“To achieve this, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. ‘Bosun Tijani, unveiled the Strategic Plan for the Ministry, which has strategic pillars, including, Knowledge, Policies, Infrastructure, and Trade.”

Inuwa, therefore, reaffirmed that AI is a top priority for NITDA, as the Agency’s National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) underpins the attention drawn to it.

The IT sector regulatory agency noted the Image Merchant Promotion Limited organised the event, which was the 5th in its series, in conjunction with Coalition Society Organisations, which also featured presentations on Security and Spokespersons Communication Awards, as well as goodwill messages.

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