Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)
Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice-Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) asserts that if Africa accepts and uses artificial intelligence (AI), she may overcome problems such as poverty, food insecurity, healthcare, and others.
In his keynote talk on Wednesday at the 11th Edition of the Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition held in Abuja, Danbatta made this claim.
The annual three-day event has "Artificial Intelligence and Africa" as its topic.
He claimed that AI had the capacity to address significant issues that African nations were currently facing.
“AI-powered solutions have the potential to address some of Africa’s most pressing challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, food insecurity, financial inclusion, and infrastructure development,” Danbatta said.
However, he asserted that a number of vital issues must be resolved for Africa to fully reap the rewards of AI.
The EVC added: “First, we must invest in building the necessary digital infrastructure. This includes expanding broadband connectivity.
“In Nigeria, as of July 2023, the broadband penetration stood at 47.01 per cent.
“Also, the continent must commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment.”
The EVC claims that without a strong infrastructure, AI's potential will be unrealized and the digital divide will spread even more.
Danbatta said: “Secondly, we must prioritise digital skills development. AI technologies require a skilled workforce capable of developing, deploying, and maintaining these systems.
“We need to invest in education and training programs that equip our youth with the necessary skills to participate in the AI-driven economy.
“By nurturing a generation of AI experts, we can elevate Africa’s position in the global AI landscape and create job opportunities for our youth.”
The deployment of AI systems, he added, must be guided by ethical considerations, and fairness, accountability, and openness must be guaranteed.
“We must guard against biases, protect privacy and data security, and uphold human rights.
“AI should be a force for good, promoting inclusivity and leaving no one behind.
“Collaboration and partnerships are also crucial in unlocking the potential of AI in Africa.
“We must foster collaboration among governments, regulatory bodies, academia, the private sector, and civil society.
“By working together, we can share knowledge, pool resources together, and leverage expertise to drive innovation and create an enabling environment for AI adoption,” Danbatta said.
The EVC assured Nigerians and Africans of the readiness of the NCC to fully support the adoption and deployment of AI.
Danbatta said: “NCC is fully committed to supporting the development and deployment of AI technologies in Nigeria and across the continent.
“We are working to create an enabling regulatory framework that promotes innovation while safeguarding the interests of consumers and citizens.
“We are also collaborating with stakeholders to establish AI research and development centres, incubation hubs, and startup ecosystems to nurture homegrown AI talent.”
Africa previously led the rest of the world in technology and development, according to Dr. Evans Woherem, the chairman of Digital Africa, and it can still close the gap with the rest of the world.
He said: “There was a time Africa was leading the whole world in regards to technology but after some years, as a result of so many things that happened to her.
“Slavery and colonialism had been unfortunate to have had some series of leaders that did not see the urgency in regards to development.
“As a result of that, we have underperformed all these years but many of us are pointing out that the gap can be bridged.
“We can only do so through technology. And AI is one of those technologies we just have to pay attention to.
“Make sure Africa bridges the gap between itself and the rest of the world regarding technology and therefore regarding development.”
Woherem said that was the reason why Africans were still crying, adding, “We are raising all these points for people to realise that there are somethings we need to do in order to budge the gap.”
On AI adoption and deployment he said: “You need to understand that this is a very important technology that is going to determine the countries that will be winners in this 21st century.”