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FG directs NCC to issue research grants on artificial intelligence

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The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, has directed the National Communications Commission (NCC), to provide grants for tertiary institutions to enhance research on robotics and emerging technologies.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami [NITDA]

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isah Pantami, disclosed this during the International Conference on Computing and Advances in Information Technology, organised by Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria on Tuesday.

The three-day conference which was organised by the Department of Computer Science of the institution, has “Fostering Digital Economy Through Recent Trends in Information Technology’’ as its theme.

Pantami said the ministry was passionate about supporting emerging technologies in the area of 5G, artificial intelligence, robotics and many more.

To achieve this, the minister said he directed the NCC to come up with research grants that would be given to higher institutions to partake on research in emerging technology.

He said there was a meeting about three weeks ago to review proposals sent by academics in order to see how the Federal Government would support them with research grants in the area of emerging technologies.

According to Pantami, there is a research grant under the National Information Technology Development Agency, where the Federal Government sponsors young academics to higher institutions abroad.

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He said all these initiatives were to support digital economy of the country.

The minister noted that according to the world economic forum, as at 2016, the global contributions of ICT to economic development stands at 16 per cent, and the figure has been predicted to reach 50 per cent by 2022.

He added that the world economic forum had also predicted that by 2022, 132 million jobs would be created within the digital economy sector.

Pantami further noted that the global economy had been digitalised; new opportunities were coming up, particularly with the emergence of the disruptive technology like artificial intelligence, robotics, 5G, quantum computing, virtual realities and many more.

“All these aspects of emerging technologies come up with new opportunities that make ICT to dominate the world economy; as it is today, ICT was a key enabler to the growth and development of the world economy,’’ the minister said.

He added that the trend was the same in Nigeria, as in 2020 the National Bureau of Statistics said the fastest growing sector of Nigerian economy was the ICT.

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“In the first quarter of 2021, the fastest growing economy in the country was ICT, in the second quarter of 2021, the contribution of ICT to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 17.92 per cent,’’ he said.

He, therefore, attributed the unprecedented ICT’s contribution to GDP on policies of the ministry, stressing that within two years the ministry with its agencies came up with 16 national policies.

He added that of the 16 developed national policies, more than a dozen were being implemented, like the “National Digital Economy Policy Strategy for a Digital Nigeria”, which he described as the umbrella policy upon which other policies were developed.

Pantami said the ministry was coming up with subsidiary legislations and regulatory instruments to support the development of ICT sector in the country.

In his remarks, Prof Kabiru Bala, Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, said the conference was in line with the university’s efforts aimed at reviving the long standing academic and stakeholders’ engagement.

Bala said that the academic and stakeholders’ engagement was aimed at boosting awareness creation, knowledge sharing and influencing national and international policy formulations.

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The vice-chancellor said the international conference on computing and advances in information technology with a theme “fostering digital economy through recent trends in information technology’’ was relevant and timely.

“The digital economy is an economy which operates predominantly with the help of digital technology. It implies the global network of economic activities processes, transactions and interactions among people, businesses and devices among others supported by ICT

“The digital economy permeates the world economy; information was flowing within and across borders with unprecedented volumes, with significant impact on innovation, trades, global value chain and society; while few aspects of our life remained untouched by digitalisation,” Bala said.

He noted that “emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and cloud computing, among others led to breakthroughs that characterised our world today; this conference is therefore relevant and timely.”

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