AI Will Play Pivotal Role In Shaping Africa’s Digital Future – Danbatta


…Says NCC committed to development, deployment of AI technologies in Nigeria 

The Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta has said that the Artificial Intelligence, AI will play a pivotal role in shaping Africa’s digital future.

Danbatta who made this expression in a keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 11th edition of the Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition, DACE holding from 19th to 21st September, 2023 in Abuja observed that Artificial Intelligence, AI had emerged as one of the most transformative technologies of the time adding that its potential to revolutionize industries, enhance productivity, and improve the quality of life for citizens cannot be overstated.

Represented by the Head, Consumer Information and Education, NCC, Dr. Emilia Nwokolo, the NCC boss disclosed that there were several examples of AI-powered software in use including voice assistants, face recognition for unlocking mobile phones, fingerprint biometrics, and machine learning-based financial fraud detection.

According to him, the world had witnessed remarkable advancements in AI across various sectors, including healthcare, agriculture, finance, transportation, education, and even governance in recent times noting that AI-powered solutions had the potential to address some of Africa’s most pressing challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, food security, financial inclusion, and infrastructure development.

He however, warned that “for Africa to fully embrace the benefits of AI, we must address several critical factors. First, we must invest in building the necessary digital infrastructure. This includes expanding broadband connectivity.”

Noting that in Nigeria, as of July 2023, the broadband penetration stood at 47.01%, he added that the continent must also commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment even as he insisted that without robust infrastructure, the potential of AI would remain untapped, and the digital divide would further widen.

“Secondly, we must prioritize 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.

“Moreover, ethical considerations must underpin our approach to AI. As we deploy AI systems, we must ensure transparency, accountability, and fairness. 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”, he stated.

Assuring that the Nigerian Communications Commission was fully committed to supporting the development and deployment of AI technologies in Nigeria and across the continent, he said, “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.”

Reiterating that the theme of this year’s conference, “Artificial Intelligence and Africa,” offers Nigeria and indeed, Africa, a glimpse into the immense possibilities that lie ahead, Danbatta maintained that AI holds the power to transform the societies, drive economic growth, and improve the well-being of the people.

“Let us seize this opportunity and work together to build an inclusive, sustainable, and AI-powered Africa”, he concluded.

Photo: Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.

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