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WCRD 2024: Consumer protection of utmost importance in businesses, data-driven AI age –NCC

Cross-Sections of NCC Management and Staff Commemorating the 2024 WCRD in Abuja, FCT Photo: NCC

*Dr. Aminu Maida, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission, at the commemoration of the 2024 World Consumer Rights Day, restates the basic rights of, and highlights the strategic position of consumers in the telecommunications ecosystem in the West African country

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In regard to their strategic of consumers in any economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reaffirmed that “consumers are the most important part of any business, and their protection is of utmost importance.”

ConsumerConnect reports Dr. Aminu Maida, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC,

stated this in his remarks at the commemoration of the 2024 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), Friday, March 15, at the Commission’s Head Office, in Abuja, FCT.

The EVC/CEO, who affirmed the telecoms sector regulatory Commission’s commitment to consumer education and protection programmes, initiatives, stated the NCC aligns with theme for this year’s edition of WCRD as “Fair and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Consumer”.

Represented at the forum by Engr. Abraham Oshadami, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services at NCC, Dr. Maida noted that “consumers are the most important part of any business, and their protection is of utmost importance.”

Historical perspectives on establishment, celebration of WCRD

The Commission also stated that every year, on March 15, World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated “to raise awareness about the rights of consumers worldwide and protect them from unfair trade practices.”

It recalled the history of World Consumer Rights Day dates back to 1962 with the introduction of four basic consumer rights by President John F. Kennedy in his speech to the US Congress.

These rights included the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choose, the right to be heard, said he.

Maida further assured that in line with the above, the Commission has over the years kept faith with this date to highlight the important position the telecom consumers occupy in the telecommunications ecosystem in Nigeria.

According to him, this is aimed at upholding the rights of consumer which have evolved over the years.

The NCC Chief asserted the new additional consumer rights include the right to privacy, the right to quality of service, the right to timely redress, right to action on disputed charges, right to fair complaint process and right to accurate billing.

The Commission stated that in alignment with the global trend, it has adopted the theme for this years’ edition of World Consumer Rights Day titled, “Fair and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Consumer”.

On Artificial Intelligence and consumer privacy

Maida has described Artificial Intelligence (AI), one the new technologies, as a phenomenon that has captured the imagination of scientists, engineers, and thinkers for decades.

The EVC/CEO stated: “It represents the culmination of human innovation and the quest to create machines that can mimic human intelligence and problem-solving capabilities.

“AI has already made significant inroads into our lives. From voice assistants that respond to our commands to recommendation algorithms that suggest what we should watch, read, or buy, AI is all around us.

“It’s driving innovation in healthcare, finance, transportation, and countless other fields. Conversely, with inordinate power comes great obligation.”

In stressing the need to address certain emerging issues in the era of data-driven AI, the Commission acknowledged “as we celebrate the advancements in AI, we must also grapple with ethical questions.

The EVC/CEO said: “How do we ensure that AI systems are fair and unbiased? How do we protect privacy in an age of data-driven AI?

“These are complex issues that require careful consideration.

‘Fair and Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Consumer’.”

Ethical use, development and deployment of AI for consumer trust

The Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC asserted that using AI responsibly is crucial in order to guarantee consumer trust and circumvent possible problems.

He further explained that responsible AI means using it in an ethical way throughout its development, deployment, and usage.

This, Maida noted, includes considering issues like bias, privacy, transparency, and accountability.

Citing reports, the EVC/CEO disclosed that responsible AI aims to empower consumers, build trust, and minimise negative effects.

Urging the industry stakeholders to do more in ensuring consumer trust, Maida said AI Developers need to be transparent about the data, algorithms, and models used in AI systems.

“This ensures that decisions made by AI can be explained and mistakes can be fixed to ensure everyone is treated fairly, regardless of their background.

“This helps prevent biased decisions or discrimination thereby promoting inclusivity and equality,” stated he.

Maida restated that protection of citizens’ privacy is extremely important when using AI.

The Executive Vice-Chairman of the Commission urged organisations to handle personal data responsibly, following strict privacy regulations. Respecting privacy builds trust in AI systems.

According to him, responsible AI requires mechanisms for holding systems accountable and explaining their decisions.

He also emphasised that consumers should understand how AI systems work, and have a way to address issues or biases in the digital ecosystem.

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