As part of the federal government commitment to galvanize practical initiatives that would enhance the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, NDEPS especially in the areas of innovations, digital jobs and wealth creation, the Federal Government has commissioned a multi-million naira National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
The Centre, which was built by National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) is to provide a robust platform for achieving a National Digital Economy for Nigeria through digital literacy and skill development, innovation in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, (AI), Internet of Things, (IoT) Innovation driven Research and Development as well as harnessing the power of Discovery, Incubation And Acceleration (DIA) would support innovators in making their businesses more competitive through speeding up development and uptake of digital innovations.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami who commissioned the centre on behalf of the Federal Government maintained that the centre is central to National Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria and is in alignment with the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari on job creation and economic diversification.
According to the Minister, the Center will serve as a leading hub of innovation, research and development, knowledge transfer and training in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, AI Robotics and other emerging technology. He added that “Our adoption of regulatory sandbox frameworks for testing technology in a controlled environment will enable the Centre accelerate the progress we are making in the development of our digital economy.
While advocating for more emphasis on skill acquisition among Nigerians, the minister maintained that critical and soft skills have potential to resolve many challenges the nation is facing today. “The centre is not to solve our today’s challenges but to look at what future challenges would be and provide solutions to it. We have amended the service of the Centre to accommodate the directive of our boss, President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital Economy that is why we come up with policies that will ignite digital economy,” he added.
Dr Pantami urged Nigeria to prepare to take position in the emerging digital economy especially in the area of artificial intelligence which would have impact on other sector like healthcare, financial service manufacturing and many others adding that it would translate into a significant global economic impact for the country.
He said, “It is predicted that by the year 2025, Artificial Intelligence will be a 190 USD business. 83 percent of companies are also reported to state that Artificial is their strategic priority for the future. 1,543 AI start up raised 10 billion USD in funding in 2017. AI has a significant impact in all sectors and has played a very important role in the fight against COVID 19.”
The minister while expressing confidence that the centre would engage the youths, support in the diversification of the economy, create more jobs and inspire digital entrepreneurship directed the NITDA, the custodian of the Centre to be responsible for its management and always furnish the office of the minister the monthly report of activities of the centre.
Earlier in his welcome remark, the NITDA Director general, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi stated that the “centre is built to foster the development of emerging technologies in preparing Nigeria for the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is in tandem with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.
He added that “The project is one among many of our developmental programmes in accordance with NITDA’s core mandate of facilitating the growth of Information technology development in Nigeria. We are focused on providing support for viable innovation with socio economic impact as well as a level playing field for all Nigeria to thrive in.”
While reiterating the potentials of the Artificial Intelligence to leapfrog the nation’s economy to a desirable level that would add great value to the Gross Domestic Product, the DG said developing countries like Nigeria have potential to add between 20 billion USD to 60 billion USD to the GDP in 10 years. “As we enter the age of advanced technological breakthrough such as Artificial Intelligence. Nigeria cannot be left out in harnessing the advantages of AI. Robotics and other emerging technologies.
The Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Muhammad Bello who was the chairman of the occasion said the construction of the centre is a tremendous transformation taken place I digital economy. He said the center which is the first public sector driven centre would open the space for digital economy that would be beneficial to Nigerians.
The National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is equipped with facilities which include; Digital Innovation Lab, Market-space and Fabrication Lab Infrastructure, Printed Circuit Board Facilities, 3D Printer, Abuja Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT-REAP) office, Co-Working Space for Start-ups, Training Facilities and Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship/Office for Nigeria Content in ICT.