The federal government, on Friday, said it had trained 2,785 youths and empowered them with skills to build Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions in the last one year.
The training programme was under the National Information Technology Development Agency’s (NITDA) AI Developers Training (NAIDT) programme and championed by National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), its subsidiary in Abuja.
Director-General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa, recalled that the idea for the NAIDT programme was hatched in August 2022 when Google Developers Group (GDG) paid him a working visit.
“Then, I thought to myself that we used to reject National Youth Service Corps Members, students on internship who are supposed to be on compulsory one-year service.
“It was from then that we decided to train them through our NCAIR and empower them with AI skills instead of rejection.
“ We started it as a challenge to them (GDG) on how we can build an ecosystem that is powered by AI and today we have trained 2,785 young Nigerians after one year,’’ he said.
He said that some of the trainees have secured jobs in the country, some in the U.S., and some started building their own solutions in healthcare, agriculture and financial inclusion.
Mr Inuwa said that the federal government was already putting modalities in place to formulate the national AI policy and urged the trainees to leverage the opportunity to be part of the rule-making process.
“We do not want to formulate the policy in isolation, we want to co-create the policy with impact makers like you,” Mr Inuwa said.
He, however, decried the poor participation of women in the programme, adding that women represented only about 15 per cent of the total participants.
“AI is a social engineering technology where we can build systems and solutions for ourselves and if women are not represented, AI systems can make decisions excluding them.
“We don’t want anyone to be excluded, we want to ensure inclusivity,’’ he said.
The director-general also said it was important Nigerians became part of the AI development process to ensure that it was an ecosystem that could be controlled.
“The fear is about building a system we cannot control, but you can only build a system you cannot control if you don’t know what you are building.
“That is why we are training our citizens, we established this centre (NCAIR) so that our people can be part of the building.
“Our people will not take the back seat when developing this technology because when we develop it, AI will be a tool that can enhance productivity generally,’’ he said.
Mr Inuwa said that the programme had fared well in Abuja, hence they were in the process of expanding it to other parts of the country.
Ibrahim Bright-Mohammed, a representative of GDG said the programme was impactful, however, NITDA needed to empower the youths with more skills.
He said they needed skills in public speaking and how they could market their ideas for commercialisation.
Two beneficiaries of the programme, Amina Shiga and Zubairu Tahir confirmed they have had a good AI journey that had been of positive impact to their knowledge.
They commended NITDA, saying that their perspective on AI had changed and improved.