Isah Abdul-Azeez

The Future of AI; a Webinar with the UAE Embassy to Nigeria-TECH CENTRAL Nigeria

Moving ahead, the future of artificial intelligence. Webinar on Artificial Intelligence.

“The answer to questions of how AI would enlighten us, broadens our perspectives, and boost productivity in different ways can be answered through scientists’ collaboration from various disciplines. Not only should we focus on making AI credible but also, safe and responsible”. These were some key sentences in the welcome address from the Chief Host and Unite Arab Emirate (UAE) Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Dr. Fahad Altaffaq.

The webinar on Artificial Intelligence which held on Thursday, 10th December 2020, and was organized by the UAE Embassy to Nigeria was themed “Moving Ahead, the Future of Artificial Intelligence”. It focused on building light around the “rising significance of artificial intelligence and it’s recognisable

The panellists at the webinar were carefully selected astute professionals. The event was anchored by Mr Isaac Odugbesan, a Digital Marketing and IT Expert.

The UAE has a State Minister for Artificial Intelligence and in 2019, they launched Mohamed bn Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, the first graduate level based artificial intelligence university in the world.

His Excellency Omar Bin Sultan, Minister of States for Artificial Intelligence in the UAE , addressed that the health, social, and economic crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us appreciate the importance of technological advancements. “We have seen three years’ worth of advancement take place in three months”, in his words.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Dr Isa Ali Pantami also made mentioned that Nigeria is on track when it comes to emerging technologies. He mentioned that since the UAE has proven very proactive with in that field, Nigeria has a lot of respect for them.

“We officially started our journey on the 21st October, 2019. Since then, we have been mandated to develop National Digital Policy for a digital Nigeria from 2020 to 2030.”

This policy which has already been developed and is built upon eight pillars:

  • Developmental Regulation
  • Digital Literacy and Skills
  • Solid Infrastructure
  • Service infrastructure
  • Digital services Development and Promotion
  • Soft infrastructure
  • Digital Society and Emerging Technologies
  • Indigenous Content Development and Adoptions.

According to the Minister, top on the priority of emerging technologies in Nigeria are:

  • AI
  • Robotics
  • 5g
  • quantum computing
  • cloud computing

“Just in November, we had commissioned the establishment of a National Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Centre to develop artificial intelligence in the country, and at the same time robotics. Other centres will be established one after the other to develop emerging technologies in Nigeria.”

The government is also working on a National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy, to review challenges encountered by innovators in the country.

The Panellists which constitute astute professionals in Artificial Intelligence (AI), answered several questions ranging from the opportunities to risks of AI.

The Honourable Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Mohammed Abdullahi, is a lawyer who supports emerging technology in the aspect of policy making. He mentioned setting up digital policies that would serve as shock absorbers especially in cases like the COVID-19 pandemic. “Through the digital policy, we’ve been able to encourage local contents in emerging technologies within the country”. We have also come in to ensure that the labour engages AI rather than see it as a threat.

Dr Abdel Rahman El-Mahmood, Head of Research and Infrastructure at the UAE AI Office, answered some questions on how AI does affect the future of Information Technology (IT) and business processes. He mentioned assistive AI systems to atomate various day to day tasks, and how AI can self optimize to improve efficiency.

Mrs Toyosi Akerele Ogunsiji, Founder of Rise Network, talked on the way forward to keeping up with the rapid development AI is bringing.

“Some of what will make AI powerful in the coming years is its being able to predict diseases, give insight into sick patients, draw patterns and algorithms into policy issues, public sector effectiveness, digital transformation between communities, and public sector systems”, she said.

“Even though it said that emerging technologies like AI will take away lots of jobs, they still depend on the effectiveness of human beings. So instead of focusing on how AI would increase unemployment, we need to focus on how to develop our local human capital.”

She also mentioned that research had begun to show that the National productivity of countries is directly proportional to the quality of human capitals in those nations.

“Machines which are meant to make our work easy also need to feed on data generated by human beings. We want to think of how we can build a world where young people don’t just know how to read and regurgitate but, also read and develop problem solving and critical thinking skills.”

Mr Damola Sholanke, Director of Public Sector-Microsoft, also talked on some principles that govern how AI is being used.

The six principles of AI are as follows:

  • AI needs to be fair and treat people fairly
  • AI should be reliable and safe and should perform reliably and safely.
  • Privacy and security of AI systems
  • AI needs to be inclusive and everyone needs to understand how AI complements and helps them improve their jobs, not replace their jobs.
  • AI should be transparent and understandable (i.e., AI systems should not be complicated)
  • People who use AI should be accountable for the things they use it for.

Mr Ebot Tabi, Founder of Voyance HQ, elucidated on how to ensure there is no bias in AI by incorporating cultural and inclusive dimensions of diversity from the very beginning.

Other questions regarding privacy implications of AI were properly attended to. The webinar on Artificial Intelligence adequately did justice in accessing the opportunities and risks therein.

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