- Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Nigeria still has a long way to go, according to experts, who spoke at the Lagos Startup Week.
- The experts discussed challenges and the necessary infrastructure that needs to be put in place to foster AI innovation in Nigeria.
- One of the biggest challenges facing the country in terms of AI growth is education.
While Nigeria has AI startups such as Uniccon Group, the creators of Nigeria's first humanoid robot, the state of AI in Nigeria is still very much in its infancy.
Experts in Nigeria's tech ecosystem confirmed this on July 14, 2023, at the Lagos Startup Week, saying AI in the country is not even crawling yet.
While discussing how to foster AI innovation in the country, Dolapo Akinbisola, Country Head at SmartComplyApp, believes the path to AI innovation has to start with education."We have to intentionally ensure that it is a part of our curriculum," he said.
Olumide Okubadejo, AI Research Scientist at Spotify, also corroborated Akinbola's stance by saying Nigeria does not have the talent to drive AI technology. "how many people can build a face detection pipeline or speech detection pipeline in Nigeria?" He asked.
Beyond education, other factors are impeding the growth of AI in Nigeria.
From connectivity to infrastructure Nkem Nweke, Microsoft African Development Centre (ADC), Engineering Innovations Lead, highlighted how proper Internet connectivity is proportional to GDP growth.
Per World Bank, "GDP growth has coincided, among other things, with the rapid expansion of Internet connectivity." Research by McKinsey has also revealed that the Internet plays a crucial role in economic growth rates, as it accounts for 3.4% of the GDP of developing economies.
However, Statista puts Internet penetration in the country at 38.73% as of 2022.
Creating policies that will shape AI growth
Digital Governance Specialist Victor Famubode believes that making the right AI policies needs to start with creating awareness.
He said the government needs to make sure that it is communicating the opportunities and risks that are associated with AI and, at the same time, promoting responsible usage of the technology.
It is also important that the government finds a way to incentivise communities that can help drive open innovation.
"When you look at ChatGPT and a lot of these large language models, the foundation for how they were birthed is from a place of open science. We have these models today because open science was allowed in developed economies."
While Nigeria does not currently have a comprehensive AI policy, it has shown interest in the advancement of technology.
For example, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), published research on the impact of AI in society to provide policymakers with insights into what is possible with AI.
However, Famubode believes that the era of policies playing catch-up with technology has passed and policymakers need to move fast to ensure rapid innovation of AI in Nigeria.