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Bosun Tijani: Nigeria Can Balance AI Development With Power Sector Enhancement

Nigeria doesn’t have to neglect AI until the power sector is fixed, both can be grown together, says Bosun Tijani.

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, has said that Nigeria does not need to neglect improvement in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry and other sectors until the power sector is fixed, as both industries can be grown side by side.

Following the government’s announcement that a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop which will be held in Abuja will be taking place from April 15th to 18th 2024, it was met with mixed reactions from Nigerians, especially those who believe that the government should focus more on enhancing the power sector than AI.

In response to this, Tijani, in an interview with ARISE NEWS on Friday, said, “There is no good thinking person that will suggest that it is impossible for you to prioritize Artificial Intelligence, for you to prioritise media, for you to prioritise education until you fix power. I don’t think that’s done anywhere in the world.”

The digital economy minister, still reacting to those who felt the country needed to focus more on the Power sector in order to be able to fully implement the use of AI, said, “I think it’s understandable. Every Nigerian would like to see improvement in every aspect of our society which is absolutely understandable. But in the same spirit, if you look in my response to that question, not only do we need to justify that we can actually do AI whilst we are also trying to ensure we improve on power situation in the country, the reality is also, historically if we wanted to wait until we fix AI, there won’t be a business like ARISE.”

Tijani went on to say, “We require energy to do so many things. Can the current situation be better? Yes. Is the government doing hard work to get this done or not? Absolutely yes. But at the same time, we can’t say we will not continue to develop different aspects of our society until one particular thing is fixed. If that’s the case, there won’t be connectivity today, there won’t be telecommunications sector which relies heavily on power to be able to power base stations and all the activities that people enjoy.”

He then explained that the full implementation and understanding of AI could help the government to build other sectors, saying, “As we continue to improve on this aspect, we have to ensure that we’re not leaving the difficult things that we must also do undone. I think we have to do these things side-by-side. And Artificial Intelligence, more than anything, actually offers that opportunity for us to start to imagine how we can actually develop on those areas where productivity level is quite low because it gives us the data set that we can use to optimise the way we are allocating our resources in those areas of our sectors.”

Tijani then also spoke to some of the negative aspects of AI, such as deepfakes, and how they can affect society as he said, “As a nation, if we don’t have a clear approach to how this is going to be managed, it will have significant implications for the society, and it’s already a global movement around it. This is why even the AI strategy we are putting together is being supported  and funded by one of our development partners, Luminate, which is a foundation of the founder of eBay, because they see that if developing countries don’t pay attention to the development in AI and actually have a clear approach to how they will manage it, how they will support it, how they will invest in it, that it may have significant challenges for even the way society is set up.

“So yes, it does bother me, but at the same time, because we are very proactive about this approach and the president is in support of everything we are doing on it, I think Nigeria will be in a place… in a good position to be able to start to ensure that we can protect our people while we also benefit from development in Artificial Intelligence as well.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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