The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, on Friday unveiled the first ever National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in Abuja.
The centre aims to set Nigeria for the Fourth Industrial Revolution which focuses on emerging technologies.
According to the minister, the establishment of the centre was in line with the eight pillars of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) of the Federal Government.
He noted that the centre related to the seventh pillar of NDEPS, which is on Digital Society and Emerging Technologies.
Pantami revealed that emerging technologies included Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Robotics, Cyber security, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Block chain, Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing, among others.
“Artificial Intelligence is the refinery of the digital economy and Robotics is very useful in supporting companies as they carry out repetitive tasks.
“These are two very important emerging technologies that will shape the face of future technologies and we have decided to be proactive to enable us to play a key role in how these technologies evolve.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution, fuelled by Big Data, propelled by robust computing capacity, advanced software and Artificial Intelligence is ushering new ways of living, well-being, learning, travelling and working.
“Its innovative use-cases are quickly changing lives for the better and creating new types of jobs,” Pantami said.
The third, fifth and eighth pillars focus on solid infrastructure, digital services development and promotion, indigenous content development and adoption respectively.
Pantami said, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Artificial Intelligence would have huge impact on healthcare, automotive, financial services, retail and consumer, technology, communications and entertainment, manufacturing, energy, transport and logistics.
According to him, all these translate into a significant global economic impact as cited by several sources and Nigeria must not be left out, hence, the call for immediate action.
“It is predicted that by 2025, Artificial Intelligence will be a 190-billion-dollars business as 83 per cent of companies are also reported to state that it is their strategic priority for the future.
“Artificial Intelligence has a significant impact in all sectors and has played a very important role in the fight against COVID-19.
“There are 12 million robotic units worldwide in 2020 and this is expected to increase by 12 per cent by 2022,’’ he said.
He disagreed that the use of robotics could lead to loss of jobs and said that reports showed that deploying robotics led to the employment of about 150,000 people globally in engineering and assembly jobs.
He also said there were already existing regulations such as the Nigerian Data Protection Regulation, the National Broadband Plan, the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Policy, among others to drive the activities of the centre.
Pantami said the centre would serve as a leading hub of innovation, research and development, knowledge transfer, and training in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and other emerging technologies.
“This centre will also serve the purpose of creating a vision for Artificial Intelligence in the country, identifying Artificial Intelligence-driven use-cases; support data stewardship and develop an Artificial Intelligence ecosystem, among others.
He said it was equipped with a digital innovation laboratory, Maker Space and Fabrication laboratory, Printed Circuit Board Facilities, 3-D Printer, Co-working space for ICT start-ups and training facilities.
He added that the centre would house the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (MIT-REAP) office set to translate research insights into practical frameworks.
The U.S.A.-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a cutting edge institute globally renowned for science and technology feats.
Pantami also expressed the hope that the centre would engage Nigerian youths, support economic diversification, create jobs and inspire digital entrepreneurship.
He directed the National Information Development Agency (NITDA to file a monthly report on the activities of the centre till Dec. 2021 when it could be certified to perform independently.
He called on the Ministry of Science and Technology for synergy in ensuring that the centre could be fully utilised to achieve the digital economy agenda of the Nigerian government.