Saturday, December 2, 2023

NITDA Aims To Foster Community Of AI Developers

NITDA AI Developers
The director-general, National Information Technology Development Agency, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi (middle) receiving an award from a NITDA AI Developers Training member (right) flanked by other members when they paid him a courtesy call in his office in Abuja.

In a bold stride toward shaping the technological landscape of the future, the director-general of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi has unveiled an ambitious vision to cultivate a thriving community of artificial intelligence (AI) developers in Nigeria.

Abdullahi made this revelation while welcoming instructors and beneficiaries of the NITDA AI Developers Training (NAIDT) during their visit to the agency’s headquarters in Abuja. They had come to present him with an award to acknowledge his remarkable dedication and unwavering support for the training initiative.

The NITDA AI Developers Training (NAIDT), a collaborative effort between NITDA’s National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) and the Google Developers Group (GDG), has yielded instructors, startup ventures, and employment opportunities for its participants. The programme has benefited 1,227 individuals across 10 cohorts, guiding them through an array of coaching sessions and lectures to cultivate programming expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

Abdullahi highlighted that the agency had successfully achieved its goals during the pilot project in Abuja and was planning to expand the initiative to other states. He articulated the broader vision: fostering a nationwide community of developers, wherein individuals could acquire knowledge, subsequently share their learnings, launch businesses and contribute positively to society.

“This year, I propose we start with three states and then strategize on expanding to other areas, and eventually, even to local governments. This endeavour is firmly rooted in my belief that Nigeria’s most precious asset is its human capital.

“I am interested in the participation breakdown, including the number of females involved, to ensure gender equity. Furthermore, I am keen to track those who have ventured into entrepreneurship following this training and who are successfully generating income. This information will be invaluable in guiding us to mentor and inspire others, as our intention is not solely to train individuals, but to connect them with job opportunities or inspire them to launch their enterprises.”

Abdullahi further noted that the NAIDT platform could potentially pave the way for indigenous super applications, such as generative AI and language modelling. These could be developed as proof-of-concept (POC) projects under NITDA’s guidance and then scaled for government-wide implementation.

“This aligns with the government’s digitalisation drive. Digitalising government services can yield significant cost savings and enhance service delivery efficiency.”

The national director of NCAIR, Engr. Ya’u Garba recounted that the project had originated from a directive given by the DG a year ago, with a goal to train one million developers under the theme “Learn, Teach and Earn”. He also acknowledged the DG’s generous provision of honorariums on a monthly basis for each cohort participating in the programme.

Garba detailed the three-tier training structure (basic, intermediate and advanced). “In the basics, we equip them with foundational programming skills, including Python, which is widely regarded as the language of science. The intermediate level prepares them for their journey in the IT realm. Finally, the advanced stage focuses on solving real-world problems and caters to those eager to progress further.”

Representing the Google Developers Group (GDG), Mr. Ibrahim Muhammed expressed gratitude to the DG and NITDA for their consistent support throughout the training initiative, highlighting the conducive environment and robust internet connectivity provided.

The beneficiaries shared their transformative experiences, expressing deep gratitude to NITDA for the enriching opportunity that has significantly enhanced their lives. Several participants have transitioned from being trainees to becoming instructors themselves, experiencing both personal fulfilment and the satisfaction of witnessing their mentees effectively applying the knowledge they have imparted.

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