Minister of Communication, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, has spoken on the government’s plans to turn Nigeria into a technologically advanced country through the involvement and leveraging of Artificial Intelligence(AI) in all aspects of national life.
Nigeria has signed the Bletchley Declaration, the world’s first agreement creating a shared understanding of the potential and threats offered by frontier AI, as well as the need for governments to collaborate to solve the most serious concerns.
In an ARISE NEWS interview on Monday, Dr. Tijani stated that Nigerians should be excited about the introduction of AI because while other nations will be investing monetary wise, Nigeria will be investing its creativity into the development.
He stated that countries worldwide have been investing vigorously into the sector because not doing so would be hindering development. However, with the involvement of government structures in terms of how Artificial Intelligence is managed, as well as giving opportunities to creative minds in the nation would give the government a boost in national development.
He reiterated the importance of this by saying, “What we stand to gain is that we already have young Nigerians building Artificial Intelligence even without significant support. But for the government, and this government in particular, we have that understanding that this is a phenomenon that we cannot look away from.
“We can’t say because we are an African country, it’s not important. For the kind of problems that we want to address within this government, it is extremely important that we mainstream the application of Artificial Intelligence. Because without data and knowledge of your people, properties and society, there’s so much you can’t do.
“When we talk about security there’s so much that data can help you do by studying and understanding your environment by digesting these things. One thing about Artificial Intelligence, it helps in allocation of resources as well,” he added.
He pointed out other sectors where the use of AI would be beneficial including the agricultural, public health, education, film industry and media sectors.
To achieve this the minister made known that the administration is doing all it needs to do to diversify the economy using technology as a tool for development. He listed the ministry five key pillars for the use of Artificial Intelligence which are: having a strong work force by driving more knowledge of AI, re-imagining policies to regulate and open more sectors to AI application, improving infrastructures like broadband networks for facilitation of AI, increasing pool for innovators and entrepreneurs to handle the provision, and exportation of AI facilitated solutions to attract investors.
Many have raised concerns on how the introduction of AI into Nigeria may increase the crime rate for fraudulent activities especially the cybercrime rate in Nigeria. Addressing this in the interview, the minister said “The glass is half full. If you look at the progress that we made, we started off with what we call the BVN tied to bank accounts so everyone can be IDed but not everyone is in the system. But the last government came up with the NIN which has 90% of the population on that platform. So what we’re talking about is a proper ID system which we have lacked for a long time.
“We’re now in a position where we can say that if we harmonize the different ID systems including the National Population Commission database, we can properly ID our people. Once you can do this, not only will you have the opportunity to litigate or reduce fraud, which exists everywhere in the world, but you’ll also understand who your people are so we can serve them better.”
The World Health Organisation recently brought to the attention of the nation, about 43% of Nigerian children, not being registered in the national system. The minister assured that a new committee has just been put in place to address this issue and find ways to work around it.
“There is a new committee being formed and the national Population Commission is actually part of it. So they’ve added people from different critical ministries including Interior affairs and my ministry. Part of what we are focusing on, while I said we have been able to register 90% of adults have been registered through NIN, our biggest challenge is actually newborns and kids in primary school.”
He also stated that the ministry is working to improve the identity system to facilitate all Nigerians including under-aged children yet to be registered because it is paramount for the “that to prosperity”.
In concluding his interview, the minister stated that the outlook of the Ministry includes involving technology in the improvement of the quality of public service which will reduce its cost and make it more effective turning Nigeria into a “tech nation”.