In a move towards positioning Nigeria as a global leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, has revealed that the Ministry has identified over 6,000 Artificial Intelligence researchers of Nigerian descent across the globe. The announcement came during the Zenith Bank Tech Fair 2023 held in Lagos.
Speaking at the event, Dr Tijani emphasized the strategic importance of these Artificial Intelligence researchers, stating that they will play a crucial role in the country’s ambitious plan to integrate AI across all sectors, contributing to economic growth and job creation.
The initiative gained momentum earlier in August when Dr Tijani took to Twitter, calling upon Nigerians to recommend AI researchers of Nigerian descent. This collaborative effort aims to co-create a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, emphasizing inclusivity and expertise from the global Nigerian diaspora.
As Nigeria paves the way for AI integration, harnessing the skills and knowledge of these Artificial Intelligence researchers reflects a strategic approach to innovation and underscores the country’s commitment to becoming a frontrunner in the rapidly evolving field of Artificial Intelligence.
Unveiling the global network: How 6,000 Nigerian Artificial Intelligence researchers were discovered
Explaining the methodology behind identifying the extensive pool of over 6,000 Nigerian researchers worldwide, Bosun Tijani shared insights into the Ministry’s proactive approach: FG identifies 6,000 Nigerian Artificial Intelligence researchers to drive Nigeria’s AI ambitions
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“Since I’ve been in office, we’ve prioritized artificial intelligence, and the first thing we did was to understand that we’ve not invested significantly in AI before. But we know for certain that there’s absolutely no top academic institution in the world where you don’t have a Nigerian. So, we gave AI the assignments to help us find them. We downloaded all the academic publications on artificial intelligence in the world,” the minister said.
He further explained that his ministry used a library for Nigerian names to train the machine, commanding it to sift through these thousands of publications and find names that look like Nigerian names. He said his team was able to find over 6,000 world-class Artificial Intelligence researchers of Nigerian descent working in artificial intelligence.
“So, this has been the foundation for what we’re building, where we’re now reimagining the artificial intelligence strategy for Nigeria. We’re gaining clarity on how this technology is going to help Nigeria do better, but also how we have to protect Nigeria from the vices of AI. So that’s the first thing with it,” he said.
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Fostering AI innovation: Government backs local startups in AI sector.
Illustrating the broader efforts to propel AI advancement, the Ministry is actively working towards establishing a robust global AI workforce for Nigeria. The Minister highlighted the government’s commitment to supporting companies that prioritize generating AI employment opportunities within the country.
Additionally, he revealed that the government is set to unveil 45 selected startups for empowerment under its AI Research Scheme by the year’s end. Through this initiative, each of the chosen startups and researchers focusing on AI will be awarded N5 million, further fostering the growth of the AI ecosystem in Nigeria.
This injection of capital holds the potential to catalyze innovation. It will also enable startups to scale their operations, conduct advanced research and develop cutting-edge solutions in the field of artificial intelligence.
Beyond the immediate financial impact, the AI Research Scheme is poised to accelerate the growth of the AI ecosystem in Nigeria. By strategically supporting startups focused on AI, the government aims to cultivate a vibrant and competitive environment for innovation. This move not only addresses the financial needs of startups but also serves as a catalyst for the development of a dynamic community of AI-driven enterprises.
As these startups thrive and expand with the aid of the AI Research Scheme, there is a ripple effect on job creation. The infusion of funds allows these enterprises to hire skilled professionals, fostering employment opportunities within the AI sector. Moreover, the overall economic impact is substantial, as successful startups contribute to the country’s economic growth and technological advancement.
With this initiative, Nigeria is taking a bold step towards establishing itself as a hub for AI innovation. By investing in and empowering startups in the AI space, the government is laying the groundwork for Nigeria to be recognized globally for its contributions to artificial intelligence.