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Here are ways AI can benefit Nigerian politicians

Unveiling the synergy between AI technologies: Decoding approaches for enhanced service provisions and value additions

Prior to 2023, the older generation in Nigerian politics would sneer at the suggestion that elections could be decided by deploying social media campaign strategies. But the significant participation of the younger demographic in the 2023 elections, which ultimately changed the outcome of the results, was largely due to these social media campaigns.

Experts say artificial intelligence (AI), when deployed at scale, has the potential to change the outcome of any election and political discourse, as social media has done in recent years. It is therefore important to consider the ways the technology can be of benefit.

According to an expert in AI who wanted to remain anonymous to speak freely, one way AI can be applied in politics is through targeted campaigns. Here, AI is used by political aspirants to run extremely targeted campaigns on a national scale. This may involve combining generative AI with programmatic marketing such that ads can be run targeting specific locations and the video will be made to look personalised.

For example, one of the top three candidates in the presidential election can use AI to generate a video of himself addressing people living in 774 local governments in Nigeria, and then run a YouTube or Facebook ad targeting people in those locations.

“People in Obio Okpor local government will be watching a video of the candidate speaking to them about his plans for the country and how it affects their specific local government. Peter Obi will only need to shoot one video, and generative AI will be able to reproduce that video for all 774 LGAs,” the expert said.

The videos can also be translated into local languages such that someone in rural communities across the country is able to watch the candidate speak to them in local language concerning his plans for the community and region and how the plans will make their lives better.

At the last presidential election, there were several cases where the officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission were unable to upload pictures of the results to the IReV portal. Deploying AI in subsequent elections would solve this. The AI would not just upload the pictures, it is able to scan result sheets and convert the images to text. When the text is authenticated, the AI is capable of uploading the result to the server, thereby ensuring that all the results from across the country are accumulated in real-time with less human interference.

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“It is a lot easier on the BVAS machines (client side) and IReV server (server side) to upload texts than images. So in situations where there might be overloading of the servers, the text results scanned by the AI and verified by polling agents can be uploaded first by the BVAS, and the images will be uploaded automatically when the server is less busy,” said the expert.

AI is also used for predictive analytics. In this case, AI algorithms can analyse data from various sources, such as social media, news articles, and public opinion polls, to predict political outcomes, identify trends, and forecast potential risks and opportunities.

Barack Obama, former US President, is reportedly the first to use data analytics on a massive scale in his election campaign. His campaign deployed a computer program called Project Narwhal, which had features like rapid iteration, minimal barriers between developers and operations staff, heavy use of cloud technology, and constant testing. These tools enabled him to engage his voter base on platforms such as Reddit, place ad campaigns on unconventional media, and gauge the attitude and movements of his base.

AI can also help policy analysts in analysing vast amounts of data and information to identify patterns and insights that can inform policy decisions. AI can also help evaluate the impact of policies on different groups of people and assess their effectiveness.

Experts say social media listening, part of policy analysis, can help to understand citizens’ preferences, experiences, values, and behaviours in response to an actual or proposed policy tool change. Upon sending a signal into the policy environment (as either a proposed or real change), social media can be monitored to assess the reaction and adapt the signal in response, with citizen attitudes gauged and observed over time.

AI can also be deployed by politicians or elected officials to engage their constituencies. AI-powered chatbots can answer citizens’ questions and provide them with personalised recommendations based on their preferences and interests. AI can be used to disseminate information more effectively, considering both the intended audience and the appropriate timing and channel.

AI can also be used to analyse social media sentiment to understand citizens’ views on various issues and engage with them in real time.

Election monitoring is another strategic importance of AI in politics. The technology has the capacity to monitor and analyse election data, detect irregularities and fraud, and provide real-time reporting on election results.

Another area AI would help is Natural Language Processing (NLP), which is used to analyse political speeches, debates, and news articles to identify the most relevant issues and topics, as well as the tone and sentiment of political discourse. The two main phases of NLP include data preprocessing and algorithm development. Data preprocessing involves preparing and cleaning text data for machines to be able to analyse it. Once the data has been preprocessed, an algorithm is developed to process it.

AI can also help identify and prevent cyber threats, such as hacking attempts, data breaches, and disinformation campaigns, which can undermine the integrity of the democratic process.