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Inuwa, NITDA DG, Seeks AI to Increase Productivity in Critical Sectors of the Economy

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Kashifu Inuwa CCIE, the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has reiterated the need to explore and use AI in bolstering productivity in critical sectors of the Nation’s economy.

This is as the world increasingly leverages cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) in shaping lives and businesses,

Inuwa made this known while delivering a Keynote Address on “Artificial Intelligence: Effective Communication for National Security” at the 2023 Security and Spokespersons Awards and Conference which held in Abuja.

Alluding to the fact that Artificial Intelligence is already changing daily lives, almost entirely in ways that improve human health, safety, and productivity, Inuwa averred that AI is beyond a tool, as it is a new way of building a relationship between humans and machines.

“In building that relationship, we need to look beyond just having a tool we use for our daily activities and start thinking in the direction of developing a system which can help meet certain human needs”, Inuwa said.

While highlighting some of the benefits of emerging technologies, particularly artificial intelligence, the Director-General said that the algorithm which is the AI that powers social media is a machine that needs to be trained and controlled, in order to avoid it spiralling out of control.

“Due to the happenings on social media, industry practitioners are pushing for “explainability in the AI”, also referred to as “black box” within the AI algorithm”

“Imagine having a system that makes decisions for us and does not understand the way it came about making that decision, now, that is indeed a red flag, having AI go out of control, so, we need to get AI to be always for humanity, because it is the most existential threat to humanity today”, the DG stressed.

Inuwa said, “countries around the world are making efforts toward deciphering the functionalities of artificial intelligence and coming up with policies and putting standards in place to ensure they are AI ready countries, and so Nigeria cannot take the back seat”.

“In Nigeria, we are looking at it from three perspectives; having AI ready principles, data and AI ready security”.

“This invariably means that as a matter of principle, we should have redlines that AI must not cross, to achieve this, last year we started our journey by crowdsourcing on how to build National AI Policy and we have the first draft ready”, Inuwa maintained.

According to Inuwa, “when the present administration came onboard, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu mandated the Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy to accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy by enhancing productivity in critical sectors through technological innovation, and we strongly believe that to achieve this, AI is our best tool to use in that regard”.

“To take this further, we launched a call for research, where we are offering a grant to forty five Nigerians to do research on Artificial Intelligence, so that we get a feedback on how to use AI in Health, Education, Agriculture, Finance, Security and many more.”

“We are giving up to N5Million to each researcher because we want to co-create and design the policy collaboratively, not the government using arm chair theories to come up with the policies, we need everybody to be onboard”, the Director-General noted.

The NITDA Boss who also emphasised the need to speed up efforts to connect the unconnected in order for them to be digitally feasible ahead of the AI adoption and deployment in the country, added that if they are infeasible, the AI will not consider them while making decisions.

Inuwa who went on to explain other perspectives, including data and security, sued for global standards for the regulation of AI.

“We are seeing how AI is becoming biased, gender biased and even exhibiting racist behaviour, partly because of the data used to develop it. So, if you develop an AI system amd train it in another country and decide to take it elsewhere, it will not work, hence, the need for global data for every one use to train it”, Inuwa enunciated.

Also harping on Nigeria’s abundant resources, talents and youthful population, Inuwa affirmed that the country has a competitive advantage in becoming the frontier in digital technological innovation.

“Although we lost out during the first, second and third Industrial Revolutions because they needed capital investment but in the fourth,  we can use our talents to compete with any country in the world, given the fact that talent is the human component of technology”.

“To achieve this, the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani, unveiled the Strategic Plan for the Ministry which has strategic pillars, including, Knowledge, Policies, Infrastructure, and Trade”, the DG mentioned.

In conclusion, Inuwa avowed that AI is a top priority for NITDA as the Agency’s National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) underpins the attention drawn to it.

The event which was the 5th in its series was organised by Image Merchant Promotion Ltd in conjunction with Coalition Society Organizations also featured presentations on Security and Spokespersons Communication Awards as well as goodwill messages.


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PalmPay Named Among Top 250 Fintech Companies in the World by CNBC and Statista

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Africa-focused fintech platform, PalmPay, has been included in the 2024 edition of CNBC and Statista’s prestigious list of the “Top 250 Fintech Companies in the World.” This recognition underscores PalmPay’s rapid growth and significant contributions to advancing financial inclusion.

The CNBC/Statista list honours fintech pioneers significantly transforming the financial services industry through technology. More than 2000 companies were evaluated globally based on general and sector-specific KPIs to determine the final selection.

In 2024, some of the most influential fintechs in the world were included in the list, including Alipay, Nubank, Monzo, and Revolut. Six other African firms made the list: Flutterwave (Nigeria/US) – Payments; Kuda (Nigeria/UK) – Neobanking; MTN (South Africa) – Payments; Piggyvest (Nigeria) – Financial planning; and Yoco (South Africa) – Payments.

PalmPay has developed an integrated platform that caters to consumers and businesses in the African market. The startup, which has been operating since 2019, pioneered a unique model in Nigeria that provides financial services such as money transfers, bill payment, credit services and savings via a one-stop-shop fintech ‘superapp’ and mobile money agents.

This dual approach of easy-to-use digital banking, combined with offline touchpoints for those without smartphones, has contributed to driving financial inclusion in a market where more than 40% of adults remain unbanked.

In 2023, PalmPay announced a major milestone of reaching 30 million registered users on its smartphone apps and 1.1 million businesses in its network of mobile money agents and retail merchants. A third of PalmPay customers report that the platform was their first-ever financial account.

PalmPay has quickly grown to become a market leader in Nigeria thanks to its user-friendly interface, reliable transactions, and focus on driving market share through fee-free transfers and promotions. PalmPay processes 15 million transactions on its consumer app daily and maintains a 99.5% transaction success rate.

To achieve this scale in a market where 10% transaction failure rates were common, the company built out its payment infrastructure, channel integrations and transaction routing systems. In addition to its consumer wallet, PalmPay offers services to businesses that leverage the PalmPay platform via its suite of POS machines, APIs and checkout solutions.

“It’s an honour for PalmPay to be recognised by CNBC and Statista as one of the World’s Top Fintech Companies,” said Sofia Zab, Global CMO, “This recognition validates our unique approach to financial services and our commitment to driving financial inclusion. We are actively expanding PalmPay’s reach and offerings, ensuring more people have access to essential financial services and promoting economic development in emerging markets”

PalmPay operates in several key markets across Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania, with plans to expand further in the region and other emerging markets. The company has global HQs in China and London.


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WiDEF Launches Round of Technical Assistance to help Close the Gender Digital Divide

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The Women in the Digital Economy Fund (WiDEF) announced today the launch of its second competitive round, this time inviting applications from large private sector enterprises seeking technical support to scale proven solutions to significantly close the gender digital divide.

Announced by the White House in March 2023, WiDEF is a joint effort between USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate progress on closing the gender digital divide, managed by CARE, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership and the GSMA Foundation.

This round of support takes the form of tailored technical assistance to scale products, services or approaches that can significantly increase women’s access to and usage of the internet. It follows WiDEF’s     first round of funding and support that closed on May 6th 2024 for local organisations.

The technical assistance on offer aims to help to unlock opportunities to significantly close the gender digital divide, rather than supporting an enterprise’s ongoing “business as usual” activities. Examples of the kind of technical support private sector enterprises might apply for might include:

–  Research into the principal barriers and needs of underserved segments of women to inform actions to better support them to access and use digital technology and the internet

–  Evaluation of existing products and services for women to inform their evolution and wider usage

–   Testing specific approaches and services to ensure they best meet the needs of underserved women

–  Product adaptation and iteration, including the analysis of service usage data, user feedback and further design research

Business modelling and support for scaling products and services

“From our experience, we have seen how the right technical assistance can truly help companies unlock impact at scale.

“Through this new round, we believe we can deepen the private sector’s contribution to the closing of the gender divide across low- and middle-income countries, in line with the GSMA Foundation’s unwavering commitment to addressing this challenge,” said Max Cuvellier Giacomelli, Head of Mobile for Development, GSMA.

WiDEF will provide successful applicants in countries where USAID operates with tailored technical assistance for up to two years valued in the range of $50,000 to $150,000 USD. This support will be provided by the WiDEF Consortium and third-party suppliers engaged by WiDEF.

WiDEF aims to support commercially sustainable, scalable and evidence-based solutions to help close the gender digital divide. Successful applicants will need to articulate how their solution – and the technical assistance they draw on – will address at least two of the following core priority areas for WiDEF:

Improved access to affordable devices and online experiences

Increased availability of relevant products and tools

Elevation of digital literacy and skills

Enhancement of safety and security

Additionally, all applications will need to generate insights and data that expand the collection and use of gender-disaggregated research and analysis.

Full eligibility criteria and the application process can be found here. Applications are due by September 12, 2024.

 


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Reps to Donate 50% of Salaries to Fight Hunger

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House of Representatives at a plenary session on Thursday pledged to give up 50 per cent of their salaries for six months to address the hunger across the country.

During the session presided over by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu amended the motion, urging his colleagues to sacrifice 50% of their salaries. He made this plea when it was his turn to speak, seeking their support for this gesture.

“This government is doing its best but one year is not enough to address the challenges of this country. I want to plead with our colleagues to sacrifice 50 per cent for a period of six months.

“Our salary is N600,000 a month. I want to plead that we let go of 50 per cent of our salary for a period of six months,” Kalu said.

With each member paying N300,000 into a common purse, the legislative chamber will be contributing N108m monthly to the Federal Government and N648m for six months.


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