Dr. Tijani Wraps Up Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop; Announces Groundbreaking Partnerships with Cisco, 21st Century Technologies, others

Dr. Tijani Wraps Up Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop; Announces Groundbreaking Partnerships with Cisco, 21st Century Technologies, others

The Honourable Minister for Communications, Innovation & Digital Economy, Dr. ‘Bosun Tijani yesterday announced strategic partnerships that will serve to drive technological innovation and boost Nigeria’s digital Economy. He made the announcements in Abuja while speaking at a special closing dinner event to mark the end of the 4-day National Artificial Intelligence Strategy (NAIS) Workshop designed to formulate a strategy focused on addressing the needs of Nigerian citizens and communities.

At the event, Dr. Tijani expressed appreciation to all partners and stakeholders for making the Workshop possible, while stating the benefits of adopting cutting-edge technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) in raising the productivity of users for our collective prosperity. 

He noted the increased attention on AI across the world and growth in investments in the technology in Nigeria saying: “Over 1 Petabyte of storage is already being allocated to AI projects in Nigeria by Galaxy Backbone Limited. And the Pilot Compute Programme that we are undertaking, which is seeing 21st Century Technologies invest over $2 million in Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), is also going to put us in a position to start building and narrating the story for why we need to invest in our computing power as a nation.

“We all know that the strength of a network is determined by the value that each node on the network brings to it. If our world is truly connected, you are not helping Africa or Nigeria by ensuring that we can come to the table and participate. By partnering with us, you are only ensuring that our world is stronger because we have something significant to contribute to the network,” added Dr. Tijani.

The Honourable Minister went on to outline a number of strategic partnerships and projects facilitated by the Ministry of Communications, Innovation & Digital Economy to fast-track Nigeria’s growth in the field of AI, including:

  • NCAIR Relaunch: The relaunch of new and improved capacity at the National Centre for Al and Robotics (NCAIR) to better fulfil its mandate. The Centre is a special purpose vehicle created to promote research and development on emerging technologies and their practical application in the areas of Nigerian national interest. As a digital innovation and research facility, NCAIR focuses on Artificial Intelligence (Al), Robotics and Drones, Internet of Things (loT), and other emerging technologies, aimed at transforming the Nigerian digital economy. The capacity building imperative is undertaken with support from global technology company, Cisco.
  • Nigerian Multilingual Large Language Model: The multilingual LLM aims to to build the most robust Nigerian large language model. To achieve this, the project will leverage the support of the 3 Million Technical Talent (3MTT) programme Fellows to collate high quality Nigerian language data and fuel the development some of the most sophisticated AI models. The project is developed by Awarri in partnership with NITDA and DataDotOrg.
  • Nigeria’s Computing Infrastructure Pilot: To accelerate the development of Al projects of national interest, Galaxy Backbone Limited will partner 21st Century Technologies to develop Nigeria’s national compute project. The Compute will be available to local researchers, startups, government entities working on critical Al projects that are of national interest. It will reside at the Galaxy Backbone Data Centre and accessible through NCAIR.
  • The AI Collective: The Nigeria Al Collective is a community of practice collaborating towards accelerating the nation’s collective prosperity through an inclusive Al Ecosystem. The Collective will harness the power of Al to drive economic prosperity, accelerate innovation and social development, and position Nigeria as a leading force in AI for good globally. 

Earlier, while speaking at the closing ceremony of the NAIS Workshop, Dr. Tijani said, “We need to make sure that as a nation, we are well structured to govern this (Artificial Intelligence) technology which is special.

“AI by nature, is a tool to support productivity across different sectors, and Nigeria is a country that has always talked about diversification of our economy, so this is a unique opportunity for us to allow a technology that can help us to raise the level of productivity in agriculture, public health, education and many others, to the level that we truly want it to be, and that is what we are going to do,” added Dr. Tijani.

“AI by nature, is a tool to support productivity across different sectors, and Nigeria is a country that has always talked about diversification of our economy, so this is a unique opportunity for us to allow a technology that can help us to raise the level of productivity in agriculture, public health, education and many others, to the level that we truly want it to be, and that is what we are going to do,” added Dr. Tijani.

The Honourable Minister spoke about the policy formulation aspect of the AI Strategy saying that Nigeria needs the appropriate policies to government the deployment and use of AI at the Federal level and at subnational levels. He also highlighted the need need to build platforms that can aid and support those who want to innovate so that they can thrive.

The NAIS Workshop brought together over 120 Artificial Intelligence researchers and practitioners, technology companies, civil societies, and other groups from across the world to co-create a comprehensive national AI strategy. Outcomes from the workshop include a draft national AI strategy document defining the strategic imperatives, policies, investments, implementation roadmap, governance structures, and necessary steps to catalyse Nigeria into an AI-driven economy.

Themed ‘Developing the High-level Strategy and Implementation Plan for a National AI Strategy for Nigeria’, the Workshop was supported by local and international organisations including Luminate, Google, Meta, Microsoft, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), National Center for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (NCAIR), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Galaxy Backbone Limited, and Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF). 

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