• Friday, December 01, 2023
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AI strategy: Nigeria in global hunt for its best minds

Minister Tijani tours SecureID Limited Plant, explores smartcard Innovation

Bosun Tijani, minister of communications, innovation and digital economy, said it is curating a list of top researchers of Nigerian and non-Nigerian descent from all over the world to join in co-creating a National Artificial intelligence Strategy.

This is in line with the National Artificial Intelligence Policy (NAIP) on the existing work done by the National Information Technology Department Agency (NITDA) one year ago.

In the statement shared by the minister, the national AI strategy for Nigeria is responsible for steering the AI revolution towards achieving the national goal of job creation, social inclusion, and sustainable development.

“With collaborative leadership, Nigeria seeks to pioneer ethical and inclusive AI innovation that improves welfare and opportunities for all citizens,” it said.

According to PwC report, Al will contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, with $3 trillion from increased productivity and $9.1 trillion from new products and services.

Many governments have developed AI frameworks and policies to help prompt economic and technological growth. The frameworks range from the United States’ Executive Order on AI leadership, India’s National Strategy for AI #AIforAll, and China’s Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan to ‘AI Made in Germany’ and the ‘Pan-Canadian AI Strategy’, among others.

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These strategies majorly focus on talent and education, research and development, government investment, and collaborations with other countries and regulatory frameworks for the best development and deployment of AI.

In 2019, US President Donald Trump emphasised the significance of ensuring American leadership in the development of emerging technologies, including AI, that make up the industries of the future.

Trump signed an Executive Order to launch the American AI Initiative that focused on the resources of the federal government to develop AI to enhance the country’s prosperity, increase its national and economic security, and improve the quality of life of the American people.

The American AI initiative takes a multipronged approach to stimulate the US’ national leadership in AI and includes five key areas of emphasis: investing in AI R&D; unleashing AI resources; setting AI governance standards; building the AI workforce; and international engagement and protecting America’s AI advantage.

For China, the next-generation artificial intelligence development plan involves initiatives and goals for research and development, industralisation, talent development, education and skills acquisition, standard-setting and regulations, ethical norms, and security.

The country also has a national AI strategy and has announced plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in AI research and development. Cities like Beijing announced a $2.1 billion AI-centric technology park and Tianjin, which plans to set up a $16 billion AI fund, is also stepping out to the country’s AI development initiatives. By 2030, the Chinese government intends to nurture an AI industry worth 1 trillion RMB, with related industries worth 10 trillion RMB.

Canada is the first country in the world that introduced a CAD25 million national AI strategy, the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, in 2017. For this strategy, the Government of Canada appointed the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research, which works in close collaboration with Canada’s three national AI institutes – Amii in Alberta, Mila in Montréal, and Vector Institute in Toronto, as well as universities, hospitals, and organisations across the country.

The strategy has four goals and objectives: increase the number of AI researchers and graduates, establish three clusters of scientific excellence, develop thought leadership on the economic, ethical, policy, and legal implications of AI, and support the national research community on AI. Canada’s AI strategy is distinct from other strategies because it is primarily a research and talent strategy.

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Other countries that have gone ahead with their national AI strategy include Singapore, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Japan.

In Africa, Mauritius was the first to develop an AI strategy, followed by Egypt. However, South Africa currently leads the continent with the highest number of AI-focused companies, followed by Nigeria.

South Africa, the most industrialised country on the continent, currently has 726 startups compared with 456 in Nigeria, according to data from Finextra and Kora. Other countries in the top five with AI companies include Egypt (246), Kenya (204), and Morocco (126).

However, the International Finance Corporation projects that the strategic adoption of Al could add up to $234 billion to Africa’s GDP by 2030. Nigeria is considered to have a fast-growing technology start-up ecosystem (having attracted 25 percent of the $1.3 billion funding to African tech start-ups in 2021).

As an innovation leader on the African continent, Nigeria needs to develop a national strategy to harness the power of Al for sustainable development, the minister’s statement added.

Along with the opportunities, Al governance also poses some complex socio-technical challenges. As algorithms are deployed in high-stakes domains like healthcare, finance, and security, concerns are emerging around ethics, bias, transparency, job automation, and privacy.

In addition, both policymakers and researchers are of a consensus that a human-centred approach is essential to ensure Al systems are fair and accountable to all, across gender, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.