National Artificial Intelligence Strategy: FG Organises Workshop

Minister of Communications, Innovation & Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani and NITDA DG, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi at the National AI Strategy Workshop in Abuja.

As part of efforts to align and implement the priority area of the present administration’s Renewed Hope Agenda of Accelerating Diversification through Industrialisation, Digitisation, Creative Arts, Manufacturing and Innovation, the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy(FMCIDE) has organised a workshop that would co-create  National Artificial Intelligence Strategy which will leverage Human-Centred Design (HCD) approach to formulate a strategy that focuses on the needs of not only Nigeria but the world in general.

The 4-day stakeholders’ strategy workshop 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 who brainstormed on the transformative potential of AI in reshaping societies worldwide.

In his opening remark, the Minister, FMCIDE, Dr ‘Bosun Tijani reminded participants of their collective responsibility in harnessing the power of AI for the betterment of humanity and urged them to embrace a future where connectivity and innovation served as catalysts for national and global development.

While highlighting the profound impact of digital technology on human interactions and societal norms, he emphasized the need for inclusive participation in shaping the trajectory of AI development.

“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 added.

The Minister emphasised that inclusive dialogue and cooperation were  essential elements in shaping a future where AI serves the collective good and called for unity 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 transcended national boundaries, Dr Tijani averred that “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 convergingand 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,” he noted.

In his remark, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Engr. Faruk Yusuf Yabo stated that AI had the potential to transform the Nigeria’s economy in different sectors 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.”

He said, “It is essential that we 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, the Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, emphasised the significance of leveraging AI not only as  technological tool but as a catalystfor broader societal change.

The NITDA DG 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,” he noted.

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

“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,” he averred.

The NITDA DG asserted 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.

The highlight of the workshop was the breakout sessionswith 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.

At the end of the workshop, participants who were grouped into syndicates which include; 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.

While giving his vote of thanks, Dr. Tijani thanked NITDA, Nigerian Communications Commission, Galaxy Backbone, Nigeria Data Protection Commission, Data Science Nigeria, Microsoft, Google, Meta, the academia and a host of other public and private organisations for their invaluable contribution to the success of the workshop.

Expressing his excitement at the active engagement by participants at the workshop where in-depth ideas and experiences were shared, he said that he was confident that a robust National AI Strategy which Nigerians could derive value from would be developed for the benefit of the nation and the world.

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