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Artificial Intelligence technology: Is Nigeria Ready?

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Artificial Intelligence

 

Artificial Intelligence Technology: Is Nigeria Ready?

The concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, sometimes called machine intelligence, is the kind of  intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals.

It is, however, a concept that many Nigerians are not familiar with, even though many countries of the world have already keyed into it in this 21st century, especially developed nations.

AI technology is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems such as speech recognition and machine vision.

It is an area of computer science that emphasises the creation of intelligent machines such as robots that work and react like humans, as well as perform chores done by humans.

However, a number of Nigerians are not sure of what it is, how it works, and how it will affect their daily activities.

Mr Sampson Awele, an Information Communication Technology (ICT) expert, says whenever AI is mentioned, many people tend to imagine science fiction stories about robots taking the jobs and ruling the world.

According to him, it is time Nigeria keys into the system and focus on its potential benefits and how it will help citizens to live better lives.

Awele says “as a wide-ranging tool that enables people to rethink how to integrate information, analyse data, and use the resulting insights to improve decision making, the society will become better with increased automation and AI.”

He says AI is taking the centre stage within the fourth revolution with the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence.

The ICT expert, who expresses optimism that AI will not be taking over jobs to be performed by humans, explains that “many people are worried that AI robots will take over their jobs, but more humans are still needed in the workforce to do some other chores and functions.

“AI will only start doing dull or dangerous jobs. At the very least, humans and machines will work together.”

Mr Uzochukwu Okezie, a business man who also believes in the potentialities of AI technology, says the concept has the capacity to give businesses in the country a competitive advantage.

Okezie says the concept will enable enterprises to move into other industries and markets.

He adds that some corporate institutions deploy AI-backed chats to respond to customer enquiries, noting that the measure has led to increased customer engagements.

“AI can be a great tool for managing risks, as well as detect and prevent fraud.

“It is very imperative that businesses and governments adopt the technology to tackle issues of governance in the country.”

Mr Oluwafemi Osho, a Lecturer in the Department of Cyber Security Science, Federal University of Technology, Minna in Niger, says he believes the deployment of AI will increase the rate of unemployment in the country, noting, however, that “AI is the future.

“This is more so, considering the fact that digitisation worldwide keeps growing.”

According to him, people will need to choose careers that are ICT-compliant and going further, there might be no need for some kind of jobs.

He says “when computers came, the idea was to reduce processing time, labour cost, increase efficiency and it went further to algorithm, AI.

“AI will not take over jobs, it only means that humans will have to adjust so that the jobs they do will suit trends in the Information Communication Technology sector.”

Osho calls for increased sensitisation to educate youths, especially students at the secondary school level, to choose careers they can operate comfortably through the use of ICT.

The ICT expert says that the attitude of the Federal Government toward deploying AI in its systems is, however, discouraging, noting that government, however, needs to be cautious.

He says “our attitude toward investing in AI technology is not encouraging and we might end up losing out at the end.

“Nigeria has been a consuming continent but at this time, it is important we become producers.

“In many developed countries, their higher institutions are already thinking of ways to divert from traditional means of learning. Technologies that ride on AI today are disrupting virtually every industry, including the banking industry.”

On the contrary, Mr Jimson Olufuye, former boss of African Information Communication Technology Alliance (AfICTA), bemoans Nigeria’s readiness to embrace AI, stressing that huge investment will be required for the purpose.

Olufuye says “AI requires huge investment and the need has to be there.

“Right now, the real need is not there yet, we are still struggling with the basic needs, as greater percentage of the population are still struggling to make ends meet.

“To embrace such technology, it requires critical mass and it is not in Nigeria, it is in Japan, China and U.S.

“Our development is still nascent, we need to tackle basic things first; we need to make sure there is seamless connectivity all around the country.

“For instance, we need to make sure that the new electoral act that endorses electronic voting is there so that results can be transmitted simultaneously to check fraud.”

According to Olufuye, there is little or no internet connectivity in many parts of the country, and calls for improvement.

He further says that Nigeria should focus on data science and improve the capacity of coders to really automate a lot of things to be able to receive data and analyse same.

Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Communications has assured of its commitment to support ICT stakeholders  and strengthen a national AI ecosystem to achieve sustainable development.

The Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu, also reaffirms the ministry’s commitment to focus on the potential of AI to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, and improve the nation’s economy.

Shittu says AI is taking centre stage with a lot of impact on peoples’ lives as its potential power is being exploited and developed at an unprecedented speed.

“With many nations, including Nigeria banking on technology, robotics and artificial intelligence to reshape humanity, we need to encourage our youths and people to be digital-literates and become multi-discipline in ICT.

“Market analysts predict that intelligent machines programmed to think and reason like the human mind will revolutionise healthcare in the very near future.

“Proponents of the transformative power of artificial intelligence usually give two examples: self-driving cars and the delivery of healthcare.”

The minister emphasise that AI is no longer confined to the laboratories, but can be seen in many instances of human activities.

“We are accustomed to seeing countless references to intelligent machines and robots in popular culture whether it is in movies, fiction or books.

“But apart from computers and smartphone technology, nothing is more worthy of praise than our commitment to replicate human behaviours and thought pattern into machine and that is the world of artificial intelligence.

“As governments increasingly rely on the internet for governance and delivery of social benefits, technology simultaneously holds the promise of transformation and potential for exclusion.”

The minister adds that the ministry will engage in crucial conversations with stakeholders to manage and explore the AI regime.

According to him, Nigeria will seek to bring industry leaders and academic experts to the forefront by identifying priorities and share lessons for sustainable growth.

“We shall consider and explore pillars like connectivity, digital inclusion, trade, security, innovation and policy.

“We will also examine challenges and prospects of AI to foster greater interoperability and security.

“Since government is leveraging the internet for delivery of social services, lessons must be internalised to make this initiative more inclusive.”

Consequently, just like early AI research in the 1950s which explored topics like problem solving and symbolic methods, and training of computers to mimic basic human reasoning in the 1960s, AI has evolved to provide many specific benefits in every industry.

Depicted in movies and science fiction novels as human-like robots that take over the world, the present evolution of AI technologies is, afterall, not scary.

The fear of the technology also taking over jobs hitherto done by humans, and increasing the unemployment market should also be put at rest, as many more chores and functions abound to evolve , requiring human capacity and intelligence. (END)

Science & Technology

FG appoints Kashifu Abdullahi as new NITDA boss

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The Federal Government on Tuesday appointed Mr Kashifu Abdullahi as the new Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).

Mrs Hadiza Umar, Head, Corporate Affairs and External Relations of NITDA confirmed the appointment to the Nigeria News Agency in Abuja.

Umar quoted a statement signed by Mr Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, on the new NITDA boss appointment and others.

The appointment of Abdullahi was sequel to the nomination of Dr Isa Pantami, the outgoing director general of the agency as a minister designate by the President.

Abdullahi until his appointment was a principal officer at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) who was on secondment to NITDA as a Technical Assistant to Pantami.

Born on Feb. 21, 1980, Abdullahi is a graduate from the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi state and the fifth director general of NITDA.

He, in the past worked with the Galaxy Backbone Limited and has a number of professional certifications.

Other appointments by the government according to Shehu, included Sen. Basheer Mohammed who replaced Mrs Sadiya Farouk as Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees,Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons.

Dr Chioma Ejikeme was appointed to replace Mrs Sharon Ikeazor as the Executive Secretary, Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate.

Mr Adeleke Adewolu’s name had also been forwarded to the Senate to replace Mr Sunday Dare as Executive Commissioner, Nigerian Communications Commission.

NIU/ROT

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NCC records 271, 112 complaints in 4 years – Danbatta

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it recorded 271,112 complaints from Jan. 2015 till July 2019 from which 95 per cent has been successfully resolved.

The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta revealed this on Tuesday at the opening of the 2nd edition of Conference of African Telecommunications Regulators on Consumer Affairs (CATCO) in Abuja.

The conference hosted by the NCC has the theme: “Empowering the Telecom Consumer in an Era of Technological Evolution” .

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the conference, declared by President Muhammadu Buhari is being attended by representatives of Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Bodies from 11 countries.

“We are ensuring that telecoms service delivery is improved through continuously monitoring of activities of our licensees in order to treat consumer right and offer them value for their money.

“We believe that service delivery on the parts of our licensees in this era of technological evolution should be the totality of how telecoms operating companies package, provide and deliver, those services to their consumers, ” Danbatta said.

He said the commission introduced two major initiatives as part of measures to empower the consumers which were, the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) 2442 Short Code, and the 622 Toll-Free Line

He said the DND 2442 Short Code is used by consumers to control what they receive on their phones as unsolicited text messages or calls while the 622 Toll-Free line is too ensure improvement in service delivery.

Danbatta explained that 21 million subscribers had signed up for the Do Not Disturb (DND) initiative and NCC has continued to create more awareness on it through various outreach programmes and other stakeholder engagement fora.

The EVC said that consumers can call the 622 number to escalate their unresolved complaints to their service providers for effective resolution through the Commission’s intervention.

Danbatta said that the commission had commenced aggressive enforcement of compulsory compliance with the NCC’s Code of Corporate Governance for Telecommunications Industry.

NAN reports that representatives from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Republic of Benin, Uganda, Sirialone, Gambia, Mali, Niger, Mozambique, Mauritania and Eswatini ( Southern Africa) attended the conference.

JEZ/ROT

Edited by Rotimi Ijikanmi

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Launching satellites from equatorial orbit shorter to space, cheaper – NASRDA

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The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) on Tuesday said that Nigeria should harness the benefit of launching satellites from the Equitorial orbit which is shorter to space and saves cost.

Dr Spencer Onuh, the Director, Centre for Satellite Technology Development (CSTD), one of NASRDA’s activity centres, said this during the centre’s week and 9th Annual Space Conference and Exhibition in Abuja.

The Nigeria News Agency reports the two days conference focuses on the theme “Exploration of Equatorial Orbit for Space Optimisation.’

Onuh said that Nigeria located in Africa as a continent is advantaged being close to the equatorial orbit, adding that the positioning gives African countries an edge over other countries who could be located across the polar orbit.

NAN reports that Nigeria in 2003, 2007 and 2011 launched its satellites from China, Italy and Russia respectively which are outside the equatorial orbit.

Onuh explained that “equatorial orbit is an orbit roughly in line with the equator of the being planet orbited while polar orbit is one in which a satellite passes above or nearly above poles of the body being orbited on each revolution’’.

“There is a natural endowment of advantages the equatorial region bestows on us.

“For a country like Nigeria, we do a lot of revisiting of satellites for information gathering in disaster management, security, agricultural issues.

“We need to make use of equatorial orbit to reap the benefits of space science and technology,” he said.

According to Onuh, Nigeria is lacking in the area of infrastructure for developing space science technology but has human capacity to advance the sector.

He said that private-public partnership, space entrepreneurs can be encouraged to build the infrastructure needed to develop space science technology and harness its benefits.

“Private partnership can be Nigeria having international collaborations that should be done in our interest, on our terms.

“We have the capacity to challenge European space industry, our challenge is the infrastructure, we need to fix our ground station, our Assembly, Integration and Testing lab.

“Private-public-partnership can be encouraged to develop space science technology because satellite business is not just about government,” Onuh said.

The director said, though, the government had taken the responsibility of developing the space industry because Nigeria is a third world country but it is not sustainable.

Prof. Babatunde Rabiu, Director, Centre for Atmospheric Research, said that satellites from equatorial orbit deviate from the equitorial plane of a planet by less than 45 degrees.

According to Rabiu, equatorial region is characterised with the highest values of the peak electron density with the most pronounced amplitude.

He said that Near Equitorial Orbit (NEqO) satellite of countries have the potential to provide immediate disaster relief information and repetitive monitoring from multi-mission satellites.

“NEqO satellites have possible programming and selection of areas to be observed with acceptable cloud cover before and during satellite data acquisition,’’ he said.

He noted that NEqO country satellites have less market potential for data coverage because it is limited to targeted zone in equitorial zone.

“I observed that most of the nations in the equatorial belt are actually underdeveloped and considered as nations with poor management of resources,” he said

The director recommended that there should be continuous deployment of ground-based equipment for monitoring space environment in the equatorial region.

He called for urgent review of the space agency’s present budget and procurement laws to favour space science and technology among other recommendations.

Dr Matthew Adepoju, President, Geo-information Society of Nigeria (GSN) said African countries lagged behind in the first, second and third industrial revolution.

Adepoju noted that the continent must not continue to take the back stage in the fourth industrial revolution.

“The most advanced countries have taken advantage of the polar orbit, we are located in the equatorial orbit which we need to take advantage of.

“Most African countries are leveraging on this and Nigeria need to also key in and take our leadership in the continent to space.

NIU/ROT

Edited by Rotimi Ijikanmi

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Buhari charges African telecom regulators on e-fraud, cyber crime

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday charged African Telecoms Regulators to protect the continent and their consumers against e-fraud and cyber crime.

The President gave the charge in Abuja at the 2019 edition of the Conference of African Telecommunications Regulators on Consumer Affairs (CATCO) hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The Nigeria News Agency reports the conference with the theme “Empowering the Telecom Consumer in an Era of Technological Evolution’’ is to, among others, look at how regulatory activities of the 54-member nations of African Union (AU) can be integrated for seamless connectivity to boost customers’ satisfaction.

The President underscored the need for the bodies of telecom regulators in the continent to place priority attention to protecting their consumers from e-fraud,

NAN reports that the president was represented by Mr Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) who was also represented by his (SGF) Chief of Staff, Mr Polycarp Shombo.

“Globally, technological evolution has facilitated innovations in various sectors of the economy such as banking, agriculture, healthcare, commerce, entertainment, transport, and so on, bringing a lot of efficiency in service delivery as we are witnessing in Nigeria.

“However, these channels may also be hijacked and manipulated to the detriment of vulnerable consumers as can be demonstrated by rise in e-fraud activities and cybercrimes,’’ he said.

The President also called on the regulators to keep themselves abreast of the phased technological evolution from the first, second, third, fourth and the fifth generation of technologies.

He said that telecoms regulatory agencies should be concerned about the effects of the technological changes on the consumers as regulators of one of the dynamic sectors of the economy in Africa.

Buhari said that the federal government was focusing on leveraging ICT as baseline for growth and development in every sector of Nigeria’s economy.

He stressed that telecommunications and broadly speaking, Infomation Communication Technology (ICT), had become an enabler of economic growth

According to him, Nigeria is already tackling challenges associated with broadband deployment in order to boost accessibility, availability and affordability of digital services across the nooks and crannies of the country.

He said the government is working tirelessly, through regulators, to address challenges associated with right of way issue, multiple taxation and regulations, vandalism of telecoms infrastructure, among others.

“We are also ensuring that Nigeria continues to attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) into its digital space through creating the enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

“We now talk of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud Computing, Blockchain, smart cities and various smart technological renovations.

“All are targeted at certain group of consumers of digital services, whether individual or corporate entities,’’ he said.

The President congratulated the entire NCC team for supporting the platform for telecoms regulatory bodies across the length and breadth of Africa to gather and exchange ideas.

“The contribution of telecoms to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) now stands at over 10 per cent by the first quarter of this year.

”We want to see telecoms industry playing even bigger role as an enabler of economic growth and development not only in Nigeria but also across Africa.

“We must be aware that these technologies present enormous opportunities for the consumers on the one hand and may constitute threats to consumers on the other hand, especially if left improperly regulated.

“In as much as the technological evolution has changed the way we interact as nations it has also deepened the frontier for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly,’’ he said.

The president charged the regulators to be on top of their game in safeguarding the interests of the end users of the complex technologies.

JEZ/ROT

Edited by Rotimi Ijikanmi

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Ogun governor’s wife says committed to achieving SDG Goal 4

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The wife of the Ogun governor, Mrs Bamidele Abiodun, on Tuesday in Lagos said she was committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 of the United Nation (UN).

Abiodun expressed her commitment in an address at the Junior Chambers Initiative (JCI) on International Youth Day 2019, organised by the European Union (EU) and the UN with the theme “Transforming Education: Rethinking the Present”.

She said that the SDG goal 4 which is all children are given equal opportunities to education was her passion and project.

According to her, there is a contradiction in the globalised world and the fast growing service centre, the digital technological transformation in recruitment and a wider range of skills is currently required.

“It is therefore, imperative to bridge the skills gap in employment opportunities and sell social economic transformation and reduce poverty.”

Hence, the theme, Transforming Education is critical, as a champion of the UN SDG, I am personally committed to achieving SDG 4.

“SDG 4 is all children are given the opportunity of receiving quality education and my dear husband the governor, Dapo Abiodun’s administration is actively working to reform the educational system in the state,” she said.

The Ogun first lady also urged individuals to positively impact on the Nigeria, while commending the 10 persons who had contributed meaningfully to the society.

She said that the 10 persons had in spite of all odds persevered and remained dedicated to positively impacting on various communities.

Abiodun expressed satisfaction with their continued belief and optimism in the country and encouraged all to remain committed to Nigeria’s development, continually striving for self development and finding innovative ways to positively impact on community.

According to her, when you do this you will find that you are living the true value of the JCI creed that says “Earth great treasure lies in human personality”, you are all the backbone and the future of Nigeria.

She also applauded Nigerians, the EU and partner organisations for the impact they were making in the society.

Abiodun said that most importantly, for the TOYP programme that holds every year would motivate young persons across the country.

“I am hopeful that the Nigerian flag will once again be hoisted in the world congress.

The News Agency of Niger reports that the JCI at the annual International Youth Day gave honoured the 10  outstanding Nigerians who had contributed meaningfully to different sectors in the society with awards.

The award categories were Academic Leadership and Accomplishment, Contribution to Children World Peace and Human rights, Cultural Achievement and others.

One of the recipients, Onye Lauritta, a Weightlifter and an Olympic gold medallist got the Personal Accomplishment award and appreciated the organisers.

Onye said that she would make effortsw to keep the Nigerian flag flying at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics in Japan.

SKA/PDE

(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)

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