The Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, has restated the need for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Financial Institutions in the country to partner with the agency in order to leverage emerging technologies such as Artificial intelligence (AI) and Data Analytics to deepen digital payments.
He spoke during a panel discussion segment at the Central Bank of Nigeria’s 2023 Payments System Management Departmental Retreat programme.
The Director General,who was represented at the event by the National Director, National Centre for Artificial intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR), Engr Ya’u Garba, alluded to the fact that financial technology (FinTech) has so far shown immense ability in driving Nigeria’s performance in the industry and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), especially with the application of developmental regulation approach and enabling policies co-created by the tech ecosystem.
He said,deepening collaborations with key stakeholders will fast track the realisation of the goal, adding that upping the game in digital payments will not only continue to put Nigeria at the forefront as Fintech driven economy but will also enhance consumers’ user experience and help move many people out of poverty.
Responding to questions regarding Nigeria’s efforts toward dealing with the opportunities and threats posed by Artificial intelligence, Inuwa explained that the Federal Government had noticed that the trajectory of AI models which have moved from linearly to geometrical in proportions had in the previous administration, started working on Artificial intelligence Policy through the Agency which he said would be soon unveiled to the public.
“This AI Policy will form the basis on which all the rules will be highlighted and Agencies like NITDA, which is the implementation arm will be talking about the strategies, framework and guidelines to navigate through its adoption and deployment.
“Although artificial intelligence is often regarded as a double edged sword, the potential and benefits are tangible but not without a lot of threats, and that is apart from the biases that abound, notwithstanding, our regulatory approach has always been not to stifle innovation.”, Inuwa noted.
Inuwa,who also mentioned other policies of the Federal Government for the industry, maintained that the policies are start-up ecosystem- friendly.
While avowing that there is the need for measures to be deliberately taken to reap the benefits and forestall the impending threats of AI, Inuwa emphasised that NITDA will be working collaboratively with CBN as with others, in regulating the AI space, stressing that if CBN adopts a particular technology, the potential of such technology to move quickly is high.
The NITDA boss told the audience that the Start-up Bill which was passed by the National Assembly and assented to by former President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2022 will address almost, if not all the bottlenecks plaguing the tech ecosystem.
The Fintech industry, according to Inuwa, is blazing the trail, but said there are a lot more to be tapped from, if AI is explored and exploited accordingly.
He stressed that government needs to work with the United Nations, World Bank and others to see how they can help build the infrastructure for FinTech, in order to foster digital payments and possibly close the digital gap.
“The Startup Act is deemed to be a positive step forward for the country’s startup ecosystem, and it is expected to have a significant impact on businesses in the technology and innovation space”.
“We have other policies tailored towards the bigger picture, like the 3MTT programme by the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation & Digital Economy which is expected to generate a pipeline of technical talent in line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s vision of creating two million digital jobs by 2025, National Broadband Plan, Digital Identity Policy and the National Financial Policy which drive the financial inclusion in the country,” Inuwa affirmed.
Welcoming guests, the Director, Payments System Management Department, CBN, Musa Jimoh, harped on the need to look into the future and embrace things that are contemporary to Nigeria and the world at large and ensure that all the thinking behind Payments system should be hinged on how it can benefit the common man on the street.
“Everything we do in Central Bank of Nigeria, if it cannot benefit the common man on the street, then we have done nothing because the payments system is not for us but for the public good, especially as everybody uses it.
“As such, our thinking should always be what can we do to ease the pain, reduce cost, serve and make things more efficient and available to the common man on the street and indeed to all Nigerians, whether in the country or in the Diaspora”, Musa said.