Companies in Nigeria need to make necessary decisions and investments to be able to adopt artificial intelligence in the future as buying a tool from a third-party vendor will not magically make them ‘leading artificial intelligence’ company.
Thus, weaving modern AI advances into an organisation requires executive commitment, deep technical understanding, new organisational capabilities, openness to experimentation, and lots of data.
These were thoughts unanimously shared by speakers at the two-day maiden edition of Big Data and Business Analytics Conference, DABConference 2019, organised by the Information & Data Analytics Foundation (iDAF) in partnership with Manifold, DigitialPRWire, and TechEconomy.ng.
The 2019 edition was sponsored by Heckerbella, AELEX, Zenvus, and Layer3.
Synopses from the speakers:
Special Guest, the Statistician General of the Federation, Dr. Yemi Kale, represented by Lola Talabi-Oni in a presentation titled: Unleashing the Power of Data Analytics to Drive Business Results, said:
Capital accumulation, labour productivity and technological innovation, according to economists, are the three main sources of growth in an economy like Nigeria, however, the law of diminishing returns sets in as increase in capital or labour will correspond to economic growth only up to a point before output begins to decline.
Thus, Dr. Kale said, in the long-run, technological innovation wins – the Fourth Industrial Revolution!
“Technological innovation has been driven largely by Data. Technology has been driven by rapid innovation, and in the current fourth industrial revolution, technology has been largely driven by rapidly increasing volumes of data produced and consumed at a significant pace.
“Why has data grown so important? Data plays key role in shaping almost every aspect of human life by providing us with clear, objective, numerical evidence about the population, economic performance, health and wellbeing, environment and aids the decision-making process to establish numerical benchmarks, monitor and evaluate the progress of policies or programmes and ensuring that our policy interventions are well designed”.
According to the Statistician General of the Federation, previously, the country’s statistical system was less than optimal; weak, uncoordinated and largely ineffective and policy makers and other data users ignored official data.
However, there are significant changes due to improved coordination at vertical (Federal) and horizontal (State) levels; increasing recognition of the importance of statistics and resurgence in the demand for data.
He said that at the subnational level, State governments have also been raising their interest in data-driven policy by establishing statistical agencies and passing relevant statistical laws.
But, available information show that about 23 states currently have functional Statistical Bureau hence he called on other states to embrace the system.
The Future of Work by the CEO, Fireside Analytics, Shingai Manjengwa:
“Automation forms one of the most critical part of the future of work because it has the potential to replace 51% of jobs across multiple sectors that Africa is dependent on.
“Africa’s future of work story will be different from developed markets. With much of the workforce of tomorrow, we can program the requisite skills today by embracing Data Science.
“The big data market is worth an estimated USD$42 billion and Africans are well positioned to contribute significantly to this economy due to three factors, namely, favorable demographics; high and increasing internet penetration and changing education trends”.
Paper on Using AI and Blockchain To Monetize The Mobile Economy was delivered by Heinz Riehl Chair Professor of Business, New York University Stern School of Business, Prof. Anindya Ghose, who said that Mobile (Data Source), AI (Datamining Tools) and Blockchain (Data Quality) are linked together to cause major economic changes across the world.
He said that even in advertising industry, these technological indices are being leveraged to understand shift in consumer mindset about data exchange.
“This is what I call ‘Using AI to mine 9 Forces’ which include context, location, time, saliency, crowdedness, weather, trajectory, social, and omni-channel. These are what will influence the ways ads are deployed and how technology is being used in that ecosystem”.
“Countries like China and United States are leading the world in IP and other data related skills. Thus, Nigeria as a country should not relax, rather move up to lead the region, because there are enormous opportunities.
The Co-Chairman of JPL Financial Group, a California-based financial advisory firm and blogs at Harvard Business Review, Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe speaking on Abundance in the Data of Nations said:
“Data analytics knowledge in Nigeria is at infancy stage. But, opportunities abound as there are many aspects of our economy and culture that foreign ideas won’t solve the problems; they require local talents. Start-ups and young entrepreneurs are going to tap into it. For instance, Kobo360 is doing very great in their areas”.
He highlighted the importance of education that reflects the 21st Century learning which does not depend on paper qualifications.
“Education: It is so painful that we deceive ourselves. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of school but didn’t drop out of learning. They left the four walls of the university where professors taught them to the boardroom where venture capitalist taught them and also wrote the cheques.
“Africa needs to build processes; not to prepare the young people for certificates but a life time growth trajectory.
He also called for broadband affordability as key to unleash Big Data and Business Analytics in Africa. “It amazes me that Facebook can be free in Nigeria but most online courses and materials are not free. I believe that with Satellite broadband will bring down the cost of connectivity and most African kids can have access to the internet to learn new courses and improve on their skills”.
The Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Nairobi’s Business School, Prof. Bitange Ndemo spoke at the conference.
He said, “The world is moving very fast and Africa must not delay. We must play down paper qualifications. We need to create clusters for young kids to start developing the culture of problem solving through data analytics.
“For instance, the President of Kenya banned Fish importation only to realize the country can’t produce up to half of the local needs. The decision was reversed so that the processes can be put in the right perspective.
“So, it boils down to decision making by the government and the corporate entities. For instance, Kenya’s internet penetration is 85%; faster than Europe. We made deliberate efforts by distributing fibre optics throughout the country and brought the telcos to use it. It reduces their CAPEX and the gains trickle down to the end-users”.
Earlier, the Founder of iDAF and Lead Convener of the conference, Theophilus Babatunde Mederios (TBM) told the participants:
“Buying a tool from a third-party vendor will not magically make your organisation ‘a leading AI company’. Right now, only a handful of leading technology companies – i.e. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon – possess the culture, talent, and infrastructure to innovate at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence.
“Not only have they hired the world’s most brilliant AI talent to staff research groups like Google Brain, DeepMind, and Facebook AI Research (FAIR), they have also developed powerful internal machine learning platforms like Facebook’s FBLearner, Uber’s Michelangelo, Google’s TFX, and Twitter’s Cortex to enable their engineers and other employees to rapidly develop models and capabilities into product teams, business units and end-user experiences.
“While your organization is probably not going to turn into Google overnight decisions and investments that you make today will dramatically affect your ability to adopt machine intelligence in the future. Weaving modern AI advances into your organization requires executive commitment, deep technical understanding, new organizational capabilities, openness to experimentation and lots of data.
“Unfortunately, for companies that do not have technology as a core-competency, even getting started can be a daunting task One of the biggest obstacles that is the HiPPO – the highest paid person’s opinion – which allows gut instinct to override available data when determining company direction and policy.
“Unfamiliarity with AI may lead the HiPPO to reject any suggestions for adoption. While this strategy may produce a feeling of security in the short term, it also increases the probability of failure in the long term”.
Citing AI use cases in social justice, medical diagnosis, TBM, said that DABConference was convened out of the need to bring together the leading big data and business analytics across sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The primary objective of bringing them together is to discuss ways businesses and policy and decision makers can take advantages of their data as intellectual property to make informed strategic business decisions.
“Now is the time for business leaders and policy makers in Africa to shift from making intuition-based decisions to making data-driven decisions that align with organization.
DABConference featured workshops, panel discussions, paper presentations and exhibition while some participants smiled home with gift (packages) that will assist them further on the data and business analytics journey.