Let's embrace Artificial Intelligence to transform our societies, says Prof Danbatta at Africa Digital Conference

Professor Danbatta

By Williams Ago

Stakeholders on the digital space across Africa have been called to embrace Artificial Intelligence as it stands to be the powerful force that is capable of transforming our societies for the better.

Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, made the call at the opening ceremony of the 11th edition of the Digital Africa Conference and Exhibition (DACE), held recently at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja.

Represented by the Commission's Head, Consumer Information and Education, Dr. Emilia Nwokolo, he said, apart from positively transforming our societies, it can also drive economic growth, and improve the well-being of our people. 

With the theme of this year's conference, "Artificial Intelligence and Africa," Professor Danbatta drew the attention of the stakeholders to seize the opportunity provided by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to work together to build an inclusive, sustainable, and AI-powered Africa.

According to him, "Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as one of the most transformative technologies of our time. Its potential to revolutionize industries, enhance productivity, and improve the quality of life for citizens cannot be overstated".

He said, "As the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), I believe that AI will play a pivotal role in shaping Africa's digital future. 

"There are several examples of AI-powered software in use in our daily lives, including voice assistants, face recognition for unlocking mobile phones, fingerprint biometrics, and machine learning-based financial fraud detection.

"In recent years, we have witnessed remarkable advancements in AI across various sectors, including healthcare, agriculture, finance, transportation, education, and even governance. 

"AI-powered solutions have the potential to address some of Africa's most pressing challenges, such as limited access to healthcare, food security, financial inclusion, and infrastructure development", he emphasized.

He also pointed out that, for Africa to fully embrace the benefits of AI, "we must address several critical factors. First, we must invest in building the necessary digital infrastructure. This includes expanding broadband connectivity".

He revealed that as of July 2023, Nigeria's broadband penetration stood at 47.01% adding that the continent must commit to ensuring reliable power supply and fostering a conducive regulatory environment. "Without robust infrastructure, the potential of AI will remain untapped, and the digital divide will further widen", he warned.

Professor Danbatta also called for prioritizing digital skills development stressing that, AI technologies require a skilled workforce capable of developing, deploying, and maintaining these systems. 

"We need to invest in education and training programs that equip our youth with the necessary skills to participate in the AI-driven economy. By nurturing a generation of AI experts, we can elevate Africa's position in the global AI landscape and create job opportunities for our youth.

"Collaboration and partnerships are also crucial in unlocking the potential of AI in Africa. We must foster collaboration among Governments, regulatory bodies, academia, the private sector, and civil society. 

"By working together, we can share knowledge, pool resources together, and leverage expertise to drive innovation and create an enabling environment for AI adoption", he advised.

He expressed NCC's commitment to supporting the development and deployment of AI technologies in Nigeria and across the continent saying, "We are working to create an enabling regulatory framework that promotes innovation while safeguarding the interests of consumers and citizens. 

"We are also collaborating with stakeholders to establish AI research and development centres, incubation hubs, and startup ecosystems to nurture homegrown AI talent", he assured.
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