By Aminat Akinyemi
As the year 2022 came to a close, the world was thrown into a frenzy after a US-based AI firm, OpenAI released a groundbreaking solution called “chatGPT”, which could converse, reply to text messages sent by humans and answer almost any question as accurately as if it were human itself and all-knowing. This solution even proves to have the capacity to write news articles, public speeches, academic papers, and computer codes and can go as far as discussing matters relating to your local traditional recipes.
Today, unlike a decade ago, countries are now competing fiercely towards attaining AI supremacy.
This is not surprising as recent events have proven that AI, Robotics, Blockchain and Cybersecurity have a huge impact on national security, intelligence, healthcare and food security. With fast advances in technology, there is no doubt that the next decade presents an opportunity for countries to redefine their future and improve the quality of life, healthcare and availability of jobs through the needed up-skilling of their workforce and re-modelling of their industries.
Deviating from an age-long Nigerian tradition of simply waiting to import and consume any latest technology in the world rather than contribute to its development, the nation is lucky to have some leaders that are keeping tabs on global developments and are guarding the coast keenly.
For example, in 2019, a young Nigerian, Olusola Ayoola, after bagging his PhD in the area of Nuclear Robotics and working extensively with the UK government, decided to return home to establish Nigeria’s first fully functional robotics and artificial intelligence facility, Robotics & Artificial Intelligence Nigeria (RAIN) for training, research and product development.
Since its establishment, RAIN has proven to be world-class and has even attracted international students and recognition from the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, Ms Amina J. Mohammed, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), USA and Canada missions in Nigeria, as well as First Bank of Nigeria Plc., Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), the National Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE), the Office of the Surveyor General of the Federation, the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA).
Some of the groundbreaking research carried out at RAIN include unattended baggage detection, a mini weather station, an AI-based Traffic Light System, a ground robot vehicle and unmanned VTOL aerial vehicle (IMORP), CETHED and RAINSC75/76.
The great feat which RAIN has achieved without any support from the Government and this fact only makes one want to ask what an intervention grant will do to the growth of technology in Nigeria.
This must have been the thought of Honorable Oluyemi Adewale Taiwo, a federal lawmaker representing Ibarapa East/Ido Federal Constituency, Oyo State. In January 2022 and on the floor of the green hallow chamber, Honorable Taiwo moved a motion for the house to encourage the federal government to liaise and work with RAIN, especially during the course of tackling the insecurity. The house unanimously adopted the motion and passed a resolution in support.
Honourable Taiwo did not stop at that. The pragmatic lawmaker followed this up with the ministry of science, technology and innovation until he successfully got the nod of the ministry to provide such an intervention grant.
This is a confirmation of his stewardship to his constituency. However, the nation could do with more of his kind that will direct the federal government’s attention to burgeoning areas within the economy that can help return this nation to the path of greatness. No doubt, with this intervention grant being well managed by the tested and proven management of the Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Nigeria board, the nation can only expect to move upwards from this point onward.
The Chief Executive of RAIN, Dr Ayoola, has confirmed that there are lofty plans in place including the construction of a Centre for Excellence in Drone and Unmanned Vehicles for Geospatial Intelligence, provision of training scholarships to the youths of Nigeria, particularly those from Ibarapa East/Ido Federal Constituency, and the improvement of AI Robotics product prototypes up to the required military standards.
While the efforts of Honorable Taiwo are not common in this part of the world, it is not unexpected as he was basically doing what a genuine representative of the people would do in order to preserve the indigenous technological firms in his constituency, promote their global advantage and protect the future of the youths in such communities through up-skilling.
Let it be known that when Nigeria becomes a great country, it is the sacrifices of genuinely honourable men like Hon. Taiwo of House of Rep and his supportive colleagues in the National assembly, the Honourable Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Senator Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora, as well as the permanent secretary of the ministry, will be mentioned for praises. Now, let Nigeria’s global competitiveness in AI and Robotics begin.
Aminat Akinyemi writes from Ibadan and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.