The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Nigeria is not exactly known as the tech capital of the world. A startup wants to change that.

EKITI, Nigeria – “Being new to the whole concept of data science and [artificial intelligence] in general, I was really [inspired] by the advanced advantages that data science holds for the world at large,” Asekomhe told me.

She was one of the attendees of a five-day training programme on machine learning and artificial intelligence organized by the Data Scientists Network, or DSN, at Ekiti State University in Ado Ekiti, Nigeria earlier this month.

The Data Scientists Network, formerly known as Data Science Nigeria, is committed to building an artificial intelligence ecosystem in Africa and developing solutions for governance, education, health, retail, and finance.

Among techies, what’s the convo about AI?

The conversation surrounding artificial intelligence is highly spirited among techies and nearly every single user wants to maintain a cutting edge in this technology and be able to do more with less by utilizing AI-powered chatbots and more. For instance, a chatbot technically responds to people’s searches, freeing up people to work on more challenging tasks.

AI is an intelligent electronic system perceived as the backbone of innovation in modern computing, unlocking value for individuals and organizations. For example, optical character recognition uses AI to extract text and data from images and documents. It can be used to turn unstructured content (like tweets or comments on Twitter) into structured data to draw valuable insights.

In the media space, the advent of AI and its potential to change the status quo cannot be ignored. Recently, Kuwait Times unveiled an AI-generated presenter, Fedha, to offer new and innovative content. Fedha made her debut on Twitter with white coloured hair, wearing a black jacket and a white T-shirt.

“I’m Fedha, the first presenter in Kuwait who works with artificial intelligence at Kuwait News. What kind of news do you prefer? Let’s hear your opinions,” she says in Arabic.

DSN is filling a knowledge gap in tech

The annual programme organized by DSN was dubbed “AI Classes in Every City” as a conceptualized idea aimed at bringing AI to the masses and schools. Praise Olawoore, the community lead for DSN in Ado Ekiti, explained that the goal of this event is to bridge the knowledge gap between theory and practice, including the difference between virtual and physical classes.

“When the event is virtual, a YouTube video, or tutorial, the person following might not be able to ask questions. As the class was going on, the participants were able to ask questions, code, and practice along with the instructors.”

He added that the face-to-face training was an approach to give the participants a handful of experience and to form their background in data science and artificial intelligence.

I learned that although this was the first of its kind that would be held at a university, the programme was put together by a group of students who are data scientists and are passionate about introducing their fellow classmates to the potential applications of data science and artificial intelligence.

Perspectives from attendees

“The experience that this [programme] gave me was quite enlightening and empowering and I think I would love to express and indulge myself more in this experience,” Emanuella, a chemistry student, recounted with joyful exuberance. She was one of forty students who attended the event. “After this training, I hope to have a substantial amount of knowledge on data science enough to push my zeal to know more about it.”

Adeyemi is a new student at the university. He is studying computer science yet has little experience with technology as a whole. After the training, he submitted that it has helped him to build an interest in data science and artificial intelligence. “After this program, I look forward to further building my skills and knowledge both personally and professionally, and with the help of the DSN community, I think it’s going to be a fun-filled experience.”

The training, which has five sessions, offered a chance for participants to practice along with instructors on their smartphones.

Adeniyi, a geology graduate, who joined with his smartphone, said that he could not even imagine the training was free. He believed that the experience and exposure to AI and machine learning left him looking for more training.

“I wasn’t expecting this training to be free; people pay for this. For those that are just coming into tech, the basic knowledge in AI and machine learning is enough to guide their steps towards becoming a data scientist,” he noted.

A digital expert weighs in

More than three billion voice assistants are now in use and within a year, that number could be eight billion. The World Economic Forum predicts that “in 2025, analytical thinking, creativity, and flexibility are among the top skills needed; with data and artificial intelligence, content creation and cloud computing the top emerging professions.”

Olarenwaju Oyinbooke, a Senior Cloud Advocate at Microsoft, thinks that AI is here to stay with different capabilities. “In every century, there is a redefinition of jobs due to technological advancement. We are amid another redefinition and AI is the vehicle to make this happen. It is therefore important to adapt by learning the capabilities of these new AI tools beyond ChatGPT and its application to businesses and activities.”

“For a very long time, we have had a theoretical curriculum and it becomes hard for people to understand and apply the acquired knowledge.”

With the help of AI, Olarenwaju believes it will become easier for students to visualize a topic and bring alive ideas in the classroom.

Salako Emmanuel is a freelance journalist and a student at Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti. He is a data analyst and researcher. His research areas include health, technology, and development.