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Nigerians Should brace up for Artificial Intelligence.



Nigerians Should brace up for Artificial Intelligence.

Nowadays, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become the unmistakable and ubiquitous buzz term not just in the global technology sector but in virtually everything we do. It is a new branch of the computer age which, by estimation and expectation of experts, will revolutionise every aspect of how we live from one end of the world to another.

Indeed so exponential is AI in our modern world that some have called it the fourth industrial revolution.

Essentially, AI combines the mathematical algorithms of the computer and the communicational networks and reach of the internet to order our needs and organise our lives and livelihoods in ways we have never done before. If fully developed and deployed, AI can revolutionise our healthcare system, agriculture, transportation, education and financial services.


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For instance, AI can be used for keeping health records, medical diagnoses, telemedicine and detecting early signs that could lead to birth asphyxiation and brain injury, which are prominent causes of infant mortality. In the financial services sector, customers can use AI to send money, pay bills, make purchases and check account balances. It can also be deployed in other areas.

Although AI is relatively new in Nigeria, reports indicate that the technology is catching on rapidly. A statement by Tech Cabal, a platform dedicated to covering AI issues, stated that since the launch of the first AI-focussed Hub at the University of Lagos by Data Science Nigeria, some AI start-up companies have come up. Prominent among these are Helium, Brainhub, Aajoh, Ubenwa, etc.

Nigerians Should brace up for Artificial Intelligence.

Seeing the potential in Nigeria’s AI development, global technology companies like Google and Facebook have shown interest in partnering with Nigerian companies. In this regard, Facebook, with its AI set-up in Nigeria, NG_Hub, is in partnership with ccHub, a Nigerian AI tech start-up company, to grow Nigeria’s AI sector.

Already, in anticipation of the inevitable coming of AI, some countries worldwide have committed considerable resources to retool their technology sectors and society in general to cope. These countries’ broad areas include equipment manufacture and deployment, research and development, collaboration, orientation and training, regulation and compliance, and quality control and assurance.

As the world is embracing the reality of AI and making efforts to adapt to it, it is a matter of concern that Africa and Nigeria, particularly, seem to be lagging in taking the necessary measures to implement an AI policy strategy.

In Nigeria AI, two significant questions arise; does Nigeria have the technical infrastructure necessary to implement AI? Secondly, do we have a regulatory framework for AI operations?

It is hardly encouraging to note that Nigeria has not yet developed a comprehensive policy document on AI to guide its development and deployment.

We are concerned that leaving the issue of AI to just private sector players as is the case currently will open the sector to avoidable risks such as cyber-attacks, data breaches, deep fakes, bias and discrimination and other forms of cyber criminality.

We note that the Nigeria Communication Commission, NCC, the apex regulatory body of the telecommunications sector, has woken up within the past couple of months to the concerns raised on the issue of the continuous lack of a comprehensive regulatory framework on AI in the country.

On its website, NCC recently reported that it had initiated a study on AI and its potential impact on Nigeria’s sectors. It aims to provide policymakers with insights into the opportunities and challenges of AI and make recommendations on how government can provide regulatory interventions.

Specifically, in its research findings, NCC noted that “As the science and advancement of AI develops, smart technologies are being deployed which will have profound consequences for ethical, psychological, social, economic and legal consequences for human society and our planet….This raises concerns that agents could in the future take unwanted actions that result in dire consequences.’’

Nigerians Should brace up for Artificial Intelligence.

The AI agents here refer to such technology devices as robots, drones, cloned agents, applications and programmes that can substitute human thinking and action in doing what we usually do. There is a real danger that if we rely solely on AI to organise and move our needs, we may lay ourselves open to devastating consequences of glitches that often occur with innovatory devices designed to replace human activity.

Similarly, the National Information Technology Development Agency NITDA has also commenced drafting a code of practice for AI tools which is necessary. Its spokesperson, Mrs Hadiza Umar, stated that drawing Nigeria’s code of procedure was “to ensure responsible and ethical deployment which will mitigate the growing risk around the technology.”

Although commendable, these efforts do not constitute the comprehensive policy required to properly position AI operations and regulation in Nigeria. For these to be effective, there needs to be synergy and coordination within the context of a comprehensive legal framework covered by the law.

Accordingly, we call on the Tinubu administration and the National Assembly to work together to provide the country with enabling laws that would regulate the implementation of AI laws. This issue must be treated with the seriousness it deserves.


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