Expert Laments Dearth In Local, Global Artificial Intelligence Talents

Mr Abdullahi

Mr Kashifu Abdulahi, Director General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has described as massive, the dearth in the supply of Artificial Intelligence (AI) talent, locally and globally.

Abdulahi spoke at the 3rd International conference on Artificial Intelligence and Robitics, on Wednesday, in Lagos.

The theme of the two-day conference is: Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain for Sustainable Development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

It was put together by the Machine Intelligence Research Group (MIRG) of the University of Lagos.

Abdulahi said the need  for  professional  AI  personnel  was  almost  insatiable  as awareness  of  AI  implications  for  development  became real  globally.

He said that there was an urgent need for national  efforts toward sufficient  capacity building in AI if the country was to achieve the much needed accelerated growth and transformation.

“There is a massive shortage  in  the  supply  of  AI talent  locally  and worldwide today.

“Countless opportunities abound in capacity building. NITDA  is leveraging its local and international partnerships aimed at producing a critical mass of AI.

“As we embrace the digital future, AI is proving to be a formidable force, with projections indicating a substantial global revenue of 134.8 billion dollars by 2025.

“The McKinsey Global Survey 2023, underscores the resilience of AI adoption, even  in  challenging  economic  climates.

“In the vast landscape of technology, we find ourselves at the dawn of a new era , an era sculpted by the remarkable forces of  AI and  Blockchain.

“These  technologies  are not  mere  buzzwords,   they  are architects  of  a  new  reality,  reshaping  industries,  driving  efficiency  and unlocking innovations once deemed impossible.,” he said,

The director general added that the possibilities were boundless and the impact, both globally and in developing economies like Nigeria, was nothing short of extraordinary.

“I stand before you today with an unwavering sense of purpose and excitement as  we  delve  into  the  transformative  realms  of  AI  and  Blockchain  for  the sustainable development of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

“This conference not only marks a critical juncture in our collective exploration of these technologies but signifies a national movement to propel the digital transformation ignited by our administration.

“In  the  dynamic  landscape  of  technology,  where  the  ICT  sector  contributes significantly to our GDP, we find ourselves at the forefront of change.

“Nigerians aptly refer to the ICT sector as the ‘new oil’ , a testament to its potential for economic growth and diversification.

“For  Africa,  AI  holds  the  promise  of contributing a staggering 1.5 trillion dollars to the economy by 2030, as projected by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC),” he stated.

Abdulahi noted that the synergy between AI and Blockchain, formed the cornerstone of the country’s  digital evolution.

He added that Initiatives like the Nigeria Artificial Intelligence Research Scheme (NAIRS) exemplified the agency’s commitment to fostering a vibrant AI ecosystem.

“With financial  support  for  researchers  and  start-ups,  we  aim  to  accelerate  AI research, laying the groundwork for inclusive economic growth and societal advancement.

“This commitment is paramount as we navigate the path of future research and development in AI and Blockchain technologies, especially considering the pivotal role MSMEs play in our economy.

“Let  me  express  my  sincere  appreciation  to  the  organisers  for  their commitment  to  fostering  crossbreeding  of  ideas  across  academia, government and industry,” he stated.

Dr. Thuweba Diwani, Commission Manager, GIZ/Digital Transformation Center Nigeria, said efforts were on by the centre to contribute to the building of a thriving and inclusive digital innovation ecosystem in Nigeria.

According to her, the centre, jointly funded by the European Union, aims to contribute to building a thriving and inclusive digital innovation ecosystem in Nigeria

She noted that  the project followed  a holistic approach to digitising the economy as it worked  with all stakeholders in the digital ecosystem, in a bid to promote the supply of and demand for innovation.

“We have a strong cross cutting cooperation theme between national and international innovation ecosystem stakeholders.

“We also leverage strategic partnerships established via matchmaking between Nigerian research/academic institutions, start-ups, innovative SME, non-tech MSMEs and others,  to achieve digital transformation of the Nigerian economy,” she said.

On her part, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Folasade Ogunshola,  said academic  conferences had been identified as one of the avenues for intellectual discourse and  presentation of novel research results.

She said they also had served as platforms for the introduction of new research areas, emergence of new research topics, discovery of prospective research collaborators as well as training of junior researchers and research students among other benefits.

Ogunshola was represented by the Prof. Ayodele Atsenua, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Development Services..

Sh said that as a new and much needed trend, academic conferences had  been one of the avenues for intellectual discourse and presentation of novel research results among others.

“Today, as a new and much needed trend, academic conferences have become an avenue to bring together researchers, the industry and the government for creating sustainable synergy for knowledge dissemination and uptake as well as providing evidence based data and information to guide policy formulation and review.

“Our keynote speakers,  panelists, and presenters have curated an agenda that promises deep insights into the practical applications, emerging trends and the future trajectory of AI and blockchain for MSMEs,” she said.

Chairman of the conference, Dr Victor Odumuyiwa said that in a world marked by rapid technological advancements, the intersection of A I  and Blockchain presented unprecedented opportunities for  empowerment.

He said that it also provided a platform for the  development of MSMEs.

According to him, the conference also provides a platform for collaborative dialogue, knowledge exchange and the exploration of groundbreaking ideas, that will  shape the future of  the country’s economic landscape.

“This year’s conference is apt and urgently needed to set our nation on the path of technological development toward contributing to the fourth industrial revolution and maximally benefiting from same.

“As a nation and a continent, we missed out of the first, second and third industrial revolutions.

“We cannot afford to take a back seat in the fourth industrial revolution which is a big determinant of the prosperity of nations in the new and future normal.

“There is no better time than now for such a forum like this,” he said.

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