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Minister Tijani unveils ambitious AI strategy to drive national development

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By Blessing Emmanuel, Abuja

In a visionary move aimed at harnessing the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Nigeria has launched an ambitious strategy under the leadership of Minister of Communication, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani. This strategic initiative, conceived at the beginning of Minister Tijani’s term in office, seeks to define and outline a comprehensive AI strategy for Nigeria, positioning the country at the forefront of technological innovation in Africa.

According to the Minister, the core objective of this strategy is to coordinate and harness the power of AI for national development, with a focus on accelerating productivity and addressing some of the most pressing challenges in key sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare, and more.

By leveraging AI technologies, Nigeria aims to unlock new opportunities for growth, efficiency, and innovation across various industries, ultimately driving sustainable development and improving the quality of life for its citizens.

Recognising the significant talent pool of Nigerian descent working in the field of AI globally, the government has taken proactive steps to engage leading researchers and entrepreneurs in various initiatives.

Projects such as the newly launched National Artificial Intelligence Research Scheme (NAIRS) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution Technology Application (4IRTA) project have served as platforms for collaboration, facilitating the integration of AI solutions into everyday life in Nigeria.

As a continuation of these efforts, Nigeria is set to host the National Artificial Intelligence Strategy Workshop in Abuja from April 15th to 18th, 2024. Supported by @luminategroup and other partner organisations, the workshop will bring together 120 of Nigeria’s top researchers and startups in AI to co-create a framework for a multi-year strategy and action plan.

This collaborative approach aims to ensure that the strategy reflects the diverse perspectives and expertise of the Nigerian AI community, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to its successful implementation.

Minister Bosun Tijani expressed his confidence in the workshop’s outcomes, stating, “It is my belief that the resulting strategy will help us deliver the priorities and implementation approach towards improving lives and growing our economy through the application of AI.”He emphasised that the workshop represents a significant milestone in Nigeria’s journey towards embracing AI as a driver of economic growth and social progress.

The Nigerian government is committed to sharing further details about the AI strategy in the coming days, underscoring its commitment to leveraging technology to address the country’s development challenges and propel Nigeria into a prosperous future driven by innovation and excellence.

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NITDA DG calls for curriculum overhaul

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The Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Malam Kashifu Inuwa, on Friday called for an overhaul of curriculums across all levels to meet the 21st Century digital skills.

Inuwa made the call during a meeting with the management team of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), led by its Executive Secretary, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, in Abuja.

The D-G said the review would be in line with President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, to create millions of jobs by leveraging on digital technologies and achieving a digital literacy rate of 70 per cent by 2027.

“Digital technology has an important role to play in the design of the curriculum, content and processes due to evolution of technology.

“Disruptive technology has substituted the way of doing things worldwide, of which Nigeria as a country is not to be left behind.

“We must lead in developing a competency-based, outcome-focused curriculum that addresses the demands of the 21st century.

“This will enable us to produce a skilled workforce capable of meeting the needs of the Nigerian market and attracting investment from other countries,” he said.

According to him, integrating digital skills into the curriculum is crucial for national development and economic growth.

He further said that government policies and objectives, especially as relating to sustainable development, 21st century skills, digital economy, creative arts and digital technology, would create a pathway for nation building.

Earlier, Junaidu, the NERDC Executive Secretary, stated that they were charged with the primary responsibility of curriculum development for the country at all levels.

He, however, said it required inclusion of digital literacy as a critical area for the development of any country.

The ES noted that the visit was to scale up the existing partnership and to explore potential areas that both organisations would join forces for national development.

Junaidu added that the institution was also responsible for undertaking and promoting book development.

He further said that the institution was also responsible for local authorship for quality assurance, conducting educational research for public policies formulation and implementation and developing Nigerian languages.

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NITDA inaugurates startup labelling committee for implementation of Nigeria Startup Act

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By Blessing Emmanuel, Abuja

The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has taken a significant step towards driving the implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act (NSA) with the inauguration of a Startup Labelling Committee. This committee, inaugurated by NITDA Director-General Kashifu Inuwa CCIE, comprises representatives from both the public and private sectors.

Enacted on October 19, 2022, the NSA established a legal and institutional framework to foster the development and growth of Nigerian startups. A critical provision within the Act is the Startup Label, which recognises eligible startups and grants them access to various benefits outlined in the NSA. The issuance of the Startup Label hinges on a thorough assessment and validation process to ensure a startup meets the eligibility criteria as defined by the Act. The newly formed committee will play a pivotal role in overseeing this process.

In his address at the inauguration ceremony, Inuwa emphasised President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration’s unwavering dedication to fostering an environment conducive to the growth and success of young Nigerian innovators. He acknowledged the pivotal role startups will play in propelling the nation’s economic development and the significance of the committee’s work in nurturing and supporting these enterprises.

Inuwa elaborated on the various initiatives and support mechanisms the government plans to implement, aimed at reducing hurdles and providing financial assistance and mentorship opportunities to young entrepreneurs. He expressed optimism about the future, asserting that with the right support, these budding innovators could transform their ideas into thriving enterprises, contributing significantly to job creation and the overall economic prosperity of Nigeria in line with President Tinubu’s priority to “reform the economy to deliver sustained inclusive growth.”

He urged stakeholders to join hands in creating a robust ecosystem that would empower the next generation of entrepreneurs to flourish and contribute to the country’s progress. Inuwa added that the committee will be instrumental in establishing a robust legal and institutional framework for the successful implementation of the Startup Act. Their collaborative efforts will ensure a participatory approach that benefits all stakeholders within the Nigerian startup ecosystem.

“The composition of the committee reflects the emphasis on collaboration. Representatives from government agencies, industry experts, investors, and startup founders will bring their diverse perspectives and experiences to the table. This collaborative approach is expected to lead to a more efficient and effective labelling process, ultimately benefiting the growth of Nigerian startups,” he stated.

The National Coordinator of the Office for Nigeria Digital Innovation, Victoria Fabunmi, outlined the terms of reference for the advisory committee. These include reviewing and evaluating startups’ applications for the label based on criteria defined in the Act, periodically updating labelling criteria to ensure alignment with industry trends, and conducting impartial evaluations of submitted applications.

Furthermore, the committee will recommend the issuance or otherwise of the Startup Label based on defined criteria, provide feedback and recommendations on areas of improvement for rejected applications, and engage startups for more clarity where necessary. It will also periodically review its activities and data on labelling to identify opportunities and gaps that policymakers may need to address, review workload capacity, and recommend a fair ceiling for the number of applications to be considered per period.

The Labelling Committee comprises nine members: four representatives of incubators (ISN Rep, North and South), two representatives of the public sector (NITDA, NSIA), two representatives of civil society, and the Portal Coordinator who will serve as Secretary.

The inauguration of the Startup Labelling Committee marks a significant milestone in the implementation of the Nigeria Startup Act. With a multi-stakeholder committee guiding the process, the Act has the potential to unlock the immense potential of Nigeria’s startup ecosystem and contribute significantly to the nation’s economic development.

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Airtel Nigeria appoints new advertising, media agencies

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Airtel Nigeria has appointed new agencies to handle its advertising and media activities in the country.

This was disclosed by the Director of Corporate Communications and CSR, Mr Femi Adeniran over the weekend.

According to Adeniran, “Following a rigorous pitch process, Airtel Nigeria is pleased to announce the appointment of three marketing communications consulting agencies to collaborate with the internal teams to drive Airtel brand communications, beginning July 1, 2024.

“Insight Publicis and The Hook were successful with their RFPs and have been appointed as advertising agencies while Algorithm Media has been charged with the responsibility for media strategy, planning and buying as well as digital marketing.

“MediaTrak Limited remains the media monitoring agency for Airtel Nigeria,” the statement revealed.

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