The Technology Enhanced Learning/Computing Education Forum, organised annually by the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), has stressed the need for government at all levels to establish Artificial Intelligence (AI) policy in education that will promote innovation and digital skills development among students.
Participants who made the suggestion during the third edition of the forum, with the theme: ‘Artificial Intelligence in education: Implications and Strategies for Rapid National Growth’ which held recently and virtually, said such policy would promote innovation in all tertiary institutions in the country.
Dr. Salisu Mamman Abdulrahman, one of the keynote speakers at the forum and an associate professor of Artificial Intelligence, Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Kano State University of Science and Technology (KUST), said policy on AI would support the establishment of AI infrastructure in tertiary institutions across the country and also facilitate AI development in Nigeria.
He stressed the need for collaboration between stakeholders in AI and the academia in order to promote innovation and enhance national growth.
He said Nigeria must develop AI database that would support research and innovation.
According to him, AI is the ability of a machine to think like the human and exhibit human intelligence. A lot of investments running into billions of dollars have been channeled into global AI development in order to unlock global values.
“So many platforms have integrated AI into their operations, and different sectors of the global economy have embraced AI, including the education sector. AI can be used in automated processes and for the development of robots. Although AI is in its infancy stage in Nigeria, most ministries and government agencies, including private organisations are beginning to introduce AI in their operations. The Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy as well as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), have developed policies and strategies to develop AI in Nigeria,” Abdulrahman said.
He further explained that the application of AI could stimulate economic growth by simulating games from both the supply and demand sides, adding that the federal government is committing funds to startups to develop AI in Nigeria.
AI can contribute up to $15 trillion to the global economy by 2030, according to recent statistics, he added.
To promote AI in education in Nigeria, Abdulrahman called for skills development in the area of AI.
According to him, Nigeria needs technical skills development in Machine Language, Big Data, Robotics, Deep Learning, as well as Data Science skills for the understanding of data processing and data analytics for decision making. He said Nigerians must acquire skills in the area of Generative AI and Responsible AI, adding that Nigerians will need the knowledge of AI in critical thinking and decision making.
He insisted that apart from the technical skills, Nigerians must also acquire soft skills about AI.
“However, the biggest challenge to AI development in Nigeria is lack of funding. Organisations and government agaencies must therefore invest heavily in AI in order to enhance research and development in the country’s educational system,” Abdulrahman added.
Another keynote speaker, Prof. AbejideAde-Ibijola, who is a professor of Artificial Intelligence and Applications, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, spoke about the future of education with AI. He described AI as computers with minds and intelligence, adding that AI in education will support learning and innovation in the area of intelligent thinking, automated grading, data analytics, predictive analysis and content generation, using algorithm.
He however said AI could come with its disadvantages such as funding, insecurity and training, describing them as timeless challenges.
Speaking earlier, Dr. Muhammad Sirajo Aliyu, the President of NCS, said the forum was designed to bring stakeholders together to discuss the impact of Artificial Intelligence in education and how the education sector could leverage AI to promote innovation and drive advance research that will benefit Nigeria as a nation.
According to him, the theme of this year’s conference is centered on emerging technologies like AI that will promote innovation and excellence among those in academics.
In his goodwill message, Prof. Idris Muhammad Bugaje, the executive secretary, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), who was represented by Aliyu Hassan, the general manager of NBTE, said:
“In the midst of the fourth industrial revolution,, embracing technology like AI is not a choice but a necessity for a sustained economic progress. The transformative power of AI in education as exemplified by innovations like chatGPT, is re-shaping the educational landscape, and we encourage institutions of education to align with the development for national growth in today’s digital era.”