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Local data science, Artificial Intelligence will boost economy by $3.3b in 2020

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Experts have called on stakeholders to urgently address the dearth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capacity, or risk going into a cycle of digital slavery, saying that having a local data science, big data, AI ecosystem will position Nigeria as an outsourcing hub for international projects.

This opportunity, they said, will boost access to 10 per cent share of the global data science outsourcing projects, worth $3.3billion in revenue by 2020.

In a keynote presentation, titled, ‘Artificial Intelligence for Development’, Professor (Emeritus) and Director of Intelligent Systems Research at Oregon State University, Prof. Thomas Dietterich, described AI as a catalyst for advancement as it presents opportunities for economic transformation.

He said this during the AI Summit, in Lagos, organised by the Data Science of Nigeria (DSN).

Dietterich added that although developing economies still lag behind in AI adoption and applications, DSN has shown clear roadmap capable of putting Nigeria on, the spotlight and building national competitiveness given the right skills set.

“With the growing community of AI enthusiasts and learners, Nigeria and indeed Africa will witness a major boost in skills needed for research and development focused on bringing applied Artificial Intelligence solutions to existing community problems,” he added.

He said developing AI-enabled weather management solutions, for instance, will assist the continent address some challenges faced by farmers, thereby leading to improved food production and sufficiency.

Dietterich, who is one of the founders of the field of machine learning, lauded DSN for producing the first AI book for primary and junior secondary school students in Nigeria.

The Convener, DSN, Dr. Olubayo Adekanmbi, expressed a desire that by 2025, every Nigerian child under-10-year old understands the concept and applications of AI.

Adekanmbi said as a nation with high youth population, it is germane to prepare them for the future by giving them to the right skill set.

“This is necessary in a world where most jobs will go into extinction in the next 5-10 years. What becomes of our country with many young people who are lacking in the right skills for the ‘future jobs’? This informed the idea of Data Science Nigeria Artificial Intelligence Skill Building. DSN will raise one million qualified, world-class AI talents in the next 10 years.

“We have taken up the responsibility to ensure that every child has equal right to knowledge by creating a book that will be distributed free. We are not going through the traditional model ‘I buy for my child’ rather ‘you buy for a community or the whole school’. The approach is to simplify knowledge,” he added.

Adekanmbi urged government to integrate AI in the educational curriculum, adding that this will help raise one million inspired youths to change the country’s narrative and make Nigeria the AI destination in future.

Commending DSN, Chief Executive Officer, Terragon Group, Elo Umeh, said many talents have been identified from the boot camp, which is why the Group is sponsoring two people to Tunisia.

Also, Developer Audience Lead for Africa, Microsoft, Lawrence Muthanga, said: “We see a great future for Africa. What we lack are skilled people who know the problems and see solutions from the data gathered or processed. With the skills that we have seen here, we are about to see a great change on the continent.”

On MainOne’s award to the ‘Best Female Data Scientist’, Product Manager, Mojide Aluko, said the firm believes in developing capacity of young Nigerians. MainOne believes that one of the greatest potentials Nigeria have is people. With a population of about 200 million, we understand that these people will be the wealth-builders of the nation. Therefore, we need to develop the capacity of these people, especially the girl-child because Main One also recognises that empowering a woman is a means to improve the family and the society at large.”


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