Innovation: First AI Incubation, Research Hub Opens in Lagos to Roaring Applause
Today, notable names business, government, academia, fintech, and agencies converge on 33 Queens Street, Yaba, Lagos as Data Science Nigeria (DSN) commissioned its new, state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-up incubation/research hub located in the heart of Nigeria’s fast emerging silicon valley.
The facility code-named DSN AI Hub Nigeria “is a first-of-its-kind effort to support innovation development, supported by advanced AI working tools, daily academic classes, expert mentors, access to funding and industry partnership” disclosed Bayo Adekanmbi, Founder/Chairman, DSN.
The well-done and equipped facility is made up of three floors. It has a 100-seat class for free daily AI classes on the ground floor, a well-stocked library of recent AI books, and a dedicated workspace for 50 professionals/researchers, just as it has assortments of AI labs and offices for officials. The center is supported with research robots, donated by the University College, London, United Kingdom.
With the avalanche of research tools and AI equipment, mentors among others, the centre will focus on cutting edge applications of Artificial Intelligence and Digital technologies in its many areas of research focus and products development which include: EdTech, FinTech, AgriTech, and MedTech.
Speaking virtually during the hybrid event in Lagos, Dr. Uyi Stewart,Senior Director, Data Science at Seagen (Seattle Genetics) and Chairman, Data science Nigeria, praised the efforts of the DSN team for the unquantifiable efforts at “leveraging data science to advance and move the country forward”.
According to the Chairman, the AI hub will remove the barrier of fears of availability, provide knowledge and needed support for the country’s huge talents to, “get up and never look back, activate and transform Nigeria as the doors are opened, barriers are removed”.
Similarly, Dr. Jeremie Zoungrana, representative of the Bill and Melinda Gates, also a DSN partner, pleasantly announced the startup hub as the “first of its kind aimed at building local startup, noting that data is the catalyst of the 4th industrial revolution”.
Jeremie praised the hub’s vision to develop industry-ready capacity noting that AI will add a whopping $30trillion to global economic output within the next five years while it will add at least a 20% boost to the country’s local economy.
“We are excited supporting DSN as an organization that is committed to building technical capacity. Free AI classes will contribute to Nigeria’s social-economic development. We look forward to supporting more”
In the same token, Ms. Funke Opeke, CEO, MainOne Nigeria also a DSN Strategic partner, in a virtual broadcast to the capacity audience, acknowledged the vision of the founder and his hard-working team – filling a critical need in the society. “DSN is a good work in the new normal”, she said, “you cannot thrive in the society of today without competencies in data science and AI”. Opeke opines that through activities of DSN and AI hub, “lives will be transformed”.
Speaking for the Lagos State government, Olatunbosun Alake, special adviser to the Lagos State governor on Innovation & Technology in his address described the new AI hub as “truly a landmark” in the country’s advancement into the new era of data science and artificial intelligence, really proud data science Nigeria”.
As partners, DSN hub has been a strategic partner in achieving Lagos State dogged goals in the area of data science, innovation and technology. Boldly he declares, “DSN is truly contributing value in no small measure. Lagos State is super proud of the DSN’s achievement”.
Dr. Ayodeji Coker, a Research Portfolio Manager for AI/Autonomous systems with the US Navy, sees the AI hub as a groundbreaking feat for the country. That this is happening in Nigeria, according to the UK-based AI technocrat, provides an unequalled opportunity for Nigeria to emerge and leapfrog as we have ample opportunity to accelerate development into the next phase, Coker said, adding that AI will help identify new opportunities.
Also delivering a goodwill message on behalf of Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Dr. Salihu explained that as Nigeria’s first AI incubation center, DSN Hub is bound to change lives and transform society. Salihu describes the hub as an AI research lab for young Nigerians to incubate and develop ideas for the nation to emerge into the fourth industrial revolution while also creating more opportunities for Nigerians in the area of digital economy. He, therefore, encouraged young Nigerians to make judicious use of “this great facility”.
While acknowledging DSN and its impact since inception as “awesome”, Lanre Fasakin, CEO, CMRG threw in a challenge believing “there is still much more DSN can do”, especially in the areas of marketing and apt targeting for brands. Fasakin believes DSN can be of help to brands in reaching their right targets and tell their stories better. “The future is brands relating better with consumers. What I have seen here is really not about data science but the black man. Let us go out there and make things happen”, he challenged all.
In the same vein, Ade Bajomo, Exec Director, IT & Operations, Access Bank PLC and President, Fintech Association of Nigeria, differs on the 4th industrial revolution as touted by others. For Bajomo, the DSN AI startup hub will be bringing Nigerians into its 1st industrial revolution. “This is the first industrial revolution Nigeria is taking part in”, he declared. The Fintech President posits that globally AI potential is huge, “AI will add 16 trillion US dollars to the world economy by 2030 and Nigeria stands a great chance based on youthful population”. This is extremely exciting as DSN AI hub will provide what he describes as “fundamental building blocks to leverage the energy and talent we have to bring about a better world”.
To clear the air on some knotty issues, the Founder, DSN disclosed that the new AI Hub will not in any way replace the earlier established DSN (two) hubs. “This is an addition to our existing hubs”. The one at Lekki is dedicated to HealthTech issues, the one at Muritala Mohammed Way, Yaba is also very functional. All these are driven by the big vision of building talents, solving problems, and translating these to solutions, acknowledging that the talents are here in Nigeria in abundance.
In concrete terms, the team during the COVID-19 pandemic era worked with an international organization to proffer AI-enhanced solutions to the pandemic in Nigeria. It got awarded for the work. Presently, DSN has 43 learning centres across the country where teachers are thought so they can effectively transmit the knowledge to students.
Similarly, DSN devised “AI class monitor” has been variously recognised and awarded for effective class teaching and learning; Lagos State government-sponsored Eko 360 was conceived and executed by DSN. Other workable solutions from the DSN stable include “Spoton”, a platform for small businesses where a subscriber’s phone becomes his digital address and “Adaptive Learning” which currently has over 6million students on the platform. Its “Catch them young” book for beginners has attracted rave reviews and global acknowledgments.
Talk of data-enhanced and technology-backed innovation and more of these are said to be in the offing especially taking into account DSN’s continuous growth trajectory and proficiency in capacity enhancement.
No wonder Prof. Olayinka David-West, a DSN board member succinctly in her concise goodwill urges DSN, “build talent, build capacity and change narrative”.
Others who delivered their goodwill messages include Dr. Erick Zidonka, Dr. Victor Odumuyiwa, Director, NITDA hub, University of Lagos and Dr. Amina Sambo, NITDA first AI hub who declared that the work of DSN has been enormous and felt across the country while promising that NITDA and DSN will ‘work together to bring about prosperity in Nigeria”.
Others include Gift Akporo, Operations Manager, UK Nigeria tech Hub, British Deputy High Commission, Lagos, who looks forward to working together with DSN; Mrs Teju Abisoye, Executive Secretary, Lagos State Labour Employment Agency and Olu Akanmu, Executive Director, FCMB who advises that “we do not lose our head start to discover our own Albert Einsteins” while thanking DSN for its good work in Nigeria and specifically in Osun, Akanmu’s home state.
Yet other goodwill messages followed from Emeka Okoye, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji of Future Africa,
Uzomma Dozie – Sparkle, Uzo Umpkaru Yomi Adedeji, Softcom; Wale Olokodana; Kassem Tewogbade; Aniete Udoh and Delmino Millom of the University College, London, supporters of the AI Hub among others.