Minister Commends  NCC, NITDA,  Google, Microsoft, Others For Success Of AI Workshop

Dr. ’Bosun Tijani, Minister for Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy (r) and Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of NITDA Photo: NITDA

The Minister of  Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Tijani has commended NITDA, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Galaxy Backbone Limited, Nigeria Data Protection Commission, Data Science Nigeria, Microsoft, Google, Meta, the academia and a host of other public and private organisations for their invaluable contributions to the success of the  AI workshop.

According to him, the active engagement by participants at the workshop where in-depth ideas and experiences were shared, the Minister affirmed that he was confident that a robust National AI Strategy, from which Nigerians can derive value, would be developed for the benefit of the country and the entire world.

He stated that the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, in Nigeria,  organised a workshop to co-create National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy, which will leverage Human-Centred Design (HCD) approach to formulate a strategy that focuses on the needs of not only the country but the world in general.

 The government noted the workshop is part of ongoing efforts at aligning and implementing the priority area of the present administration’s Renewed Hope Agenda of accelerating diversification through industrialisation, digitisation, creative arts, manufacturing and innovation.

The four-day stakeholders’ strategy workshop held in Abuja, FCT, with the theme, “Developing the High-Level Strategy and Implementation Plan for a National AI Strategy in Nigeria”, had in attendance key industry players from the private sector, public and global experts.

The forum also allowed the stakeholders to brainstorm on the transformative potential of AI in reshaping societies worldwide.

In his opening remark at the workshop, Dr. ’Bosun Tijani, Honourable Minister for  Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, reminded participants of their collective responsibility in harnessing the power of AI for the betterment of humanity.

On Connectivity, innovation as catalysts for national and global development, the minister urged the stakeholders to embrace a future where connectivity and innovation serve as catalysts for national and global development.

 Highlighting the high impact of digital technology on human interactions and societal norms, he emphasised the need for inclusive participation in shaping the trajectory of AI development.

He said: “Digital technologies are also quite transformational because of their scope. Not only do they connect, but they allow us to transform nearly every aspect of our lives as humans.”

He equally stressed that inclusive dialogue and cooperation are  essential elements in shaping a future where AI serves the collective good.

Tijani, therefore, advocated unity of purpose among the participants to embrace conflicting views that could emanate from their brainstorming on AI development.

While challenging participants to rise above ideological differences and embrace a vision of AI that transcends national boundaries, Dr. Tijani averred: “I’m challenging each one of us that will participate in this workshop not to be too focused on strategies in building AI that is limited to Nigeria or Africa but to the world.”

 “Let us show leadership globally so that the world could be converging and not diverging when we talk AI because these set of technology tools and products that will be built from this workshop can be used across borders.”

Also, speaking at the forum, Engr. Faruk Yusuf Yabo, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, said AI has the potential to transform the Nigerian economy in different sectors.

He stated that such transformation ranges from enhancing healthcare to increasing productivity in agriculture and government operational efficiency as well as increasing educational development.

“As we gather here, we are not just proud of this strategy for Nigeria, we are laying the foundation for the future where AI is going to be an integral part of all aspects of Nigerians’ lives.

We must develop a strategy that is not only theoretically sound but also practical and implementable within the general context while taking into cognisance, our cultural values, traditions, norms and specific needs to increase our national security and sovereignty.”

Earlier, in his welcome address, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), emphasised the significance of leveraging AI not only as a technological tool but as a catalyst for broader societal change.

Kashifu also underscored the imperative of harnessing the transformative potential of AI for the betterment of Nigerian society with emphasis on not only developing a strategy for AI but also developing a strategy with AI.

“Our vision for this strategy is clear. It is to harness the power of AI to derive values from it while harnessing its potential and avoiding its errors,” said he.

On how technology is like a double-edged sword with its promises and pitfalls, the NITDA Chief said that the uniqueness of the workshop was not only to discuss but to actively share ideas through cognitive processes.

He averred: “This approach is fundamental because it will help us to use our diverse insights and expertise in creating a strategy that will be inclusive as well as reflecting our national consensus.”

The Directror-General further explained that the strategy would help in making significant advancements toward achieving Mr President’s economic transformation in priority areas of national security, boosting agriculture to achieve food security, increasing the nation’s GDP, unlocking energy and transportation potentials as well as improving the healthcare sector among many others.

 “Our success depends on our ability to work together across government, academia, industry and civil society in bringing our unique perspectives to this strategy which will help us craft not just an innovative strategy but a practicable and implementable strategy that will lay a foundation for a prosperous nation for Nigerians,” he concluded.

According to NITDA, the highlight of the workshop was the breakout sessions with industry and global experts sharing insights on contextualising AI strategy, setting directional beacons for Nigeria’s AI, developing a national vision and goal setting for AI in Nigeria.

After the workshop, participants were grouped into syndicates such as; AI Ethics and Social Impact, AI Infrastructure and Ecosystem in Talent, AI Talent and Workforce Development, AI Research and Innovation, AI Adoption and Sector Focus, AI Policy and Governance, AI International Collaboration and Engagement, AI Safety and Regulations gave presentations on various strategic initiatives, roadmap development and thematic visioning needed for the development of a robust AI Strategy document.

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