Artificial intelligence is the new normal. For Africa, it is raw deal for the 4th industrial revolution. In emerging tech economies like Nigeria, new companies that are not integrating AI into their DNAs or existing ones not adapting to its capabilities are surplus to requirements.
They may not be counted among facilitators of the new industrial revolution. The 4th industrial revolution is characterised by cyber-physical systems, a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres.
It is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, among others. It is generally described as a development to herald a new world order. It is expected to create new super powers and economic giants that will shatter the status quo.
This could apparently explain why there appears a scramble among Nigerian organisations to solidify operations with AI capabilities. However, those versed in data management have also warned that dabbling into AI without the right knowledge may kill, more than it can save. This is also as Information and Data Analytics Foundation, iDAF, has warned Nigerian companies not to rely on tools from third-party vendors to assume they have magically become leading artificial intelligence companies.
The foundation said that even though Nigerian companies actually needed to make necessary decisions and investments to be able to adopt artificial intelligence, buying a tool from third party companies was not part of the compelling decisions. It hinted that weaving modern AI advances into an organisation requires executive commitment, deep technical understanding, new organisational capabilities, openness to experimentation and lots of data.
The revelations were made when the foundation gathered speakers at a two-day maiden edition of Big Data and Business Analytics Conference, DAB Conference, which it organised in partnership with Manifold, DigitalPRWire, and TechEconomy.ng.
The speakers, including the special guest, Statistician-General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale took turns to enumerate gains of Artificial Intelligence in sustaining the fortunes of a company and the processes required to get a cracking AI functionality into place Explaining why Nigerian companies need to integrate AI and other technological innovations, Kale’s representative and a senior official in the establishment, Mrs Lola Talabi-Oni, said: “Capital accumulation, labour productivity and technological innovation, are the three main sources of growth in an economy like Nigeria, however, the law of diminishing returns sets in as increase in capital or labour will correspond to economic growth only up to a point before output begins to decline.”
Presenting a paper: How technology and big data have the potential to drive and revolutionise Nigerian economy, Kale said: “In the current fourth industrial revolution, technology has been largely driven by rapidly increasing volumes of data produced and consumed at a significant pace.
“Data plays key role in shaping almost every aspect of human life by providing clear, objective, numerical evidence about the population, economic performance, health and wellbeing and environment. It aids the decision-making process to establish numerical benchmarks, monitor and evaluate the progress of policies or programmes and ensures that our policy interventions are well designed. “Previously, the country’s statistical system was less than optimal; weak, uncoordinated and largely ineffective and policymakers and other data users ignored official data.
“However, there are significant changes due to improved coordination at federal and state levels on increasing recognition of the importance of statistics and resurgence in the demand for data.” He revealed that about 23 states in Nigeria currently have functional Statistical Bureau even as he called on other states to embrace the system. Meanwhile, Co-Chairman of JPL Financial Group, a California-based financial advisory firm, Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe speaking on Abundance in the data of nations said: “Data analytics knowledge in Nigeria is at infancy stage but opportunities abound, going by several problems on aspects of our economy and culture that foreign ideas may not solve. So, such problems require local talents which start-ups and young entrepreneurs are going to tap into.
Again, our education should reflect the 21st Century approach which does not depend on paper qualifications. It is so painful that we deceive ourselves with this certificate thing. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of school but didn’t drop out of learning.
They left the four walls of the university where professors taught them to the boardroom where venture capitalist taught them and also wrote the cheques. “Africa needs to build processes; not to prepare the young people for certificates but a life time growth trajectory. To start with, broadband affordability is key. It amazes me that Facebook can be free in Nigeria but most online courses and materials are not free. I believe that if Satellite broadband brings down the cost of connectivity, most African kids can have access to the internet to learn new courses and improve on their skills.”
The take away from deliberations at the event appeared to be that management of huge data resource in Nigeria could determine how best Artificial Intelligence could benefit Nigeria’s economy just like it has done to several economies of the world.