NITDA Advocates For The Safer Application Of Artificial Intelligence
As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly ingrained in people’s lives and activities, Kashifu Inuwa, Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has urged the global tech community to devise measures to ensure that AI systems are built in accordance with policies, regulations, and laws.
Inuwa made this call while participating in a plenary session at the Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on the theme, “Catalysing AI Communities and Solutions: Sharing Cases Across the EU, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.”
The DG stated that it is critical to involve members of the community in the development of AI systems. Because if only a few techy people are allowed to develop AI systems, the systems will be built with a techy mindset, despite the fact that the systems will be used in a variety of applications such as criminal justice, recruitment, profiling, and so on. So AI software engineers are more than just software engineers; they are also social engineers.
Inuwa emphasized that the government must ensure that there are ethics, codes, and standards in place for anyone designing any system that will make decisions on behalf of the government or decisions that the community must follow.
He said further “the way it is today, we obey most of the rules of these technologies than the rules of our country. Before you use any system or access any place controlled by the technology, you have to agree to follow the rules of the technology.”
“We need to stop looking at technology from either a consumer’s perspective in terms of where he buys and costs or a capitalist’s in terms of how to exploit or build products around it. We need to start looking at it from the citizen’s eyes, how it changes the way we live together, and how it can be used for the public good.”
This can only be achieved through policies, regulations, and laws, which we believe have to be co-created.”
“We are not encouraging the government to use armchair theory to come up with laws or regulations. But we are saying that the government should co-create it with the ecosystem because the technology is new and evolving. You cannot regulate what you don’t know. Regulation is synonymous with putting a traffic light in a traffic place, and you need to understand the traffic patterns before putting the traffic light,” he added.
Inuwa went on to say that Nigeria developed a Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries to make the digital space safer for everyone, including children.
He stated that the Code’s goal is to ensure that what is illegal offline is illegal online, and that the action plan is to move Nigeria’s legal laws to the digital space. Initially, cyberspace was viewed as ungoverned, but everyone now agrees that regulation is required. However, what is the proper regulation, and he goes on to say that it cannot be created today? The creation of regulations must evolve.
The DG also emphasized the importance of preventing unaccountable power from residing and being exercised by anyone. He used the example of big tech companies being more powerful than some sovereign nations because of the data and information they possess.
He added, “the government is saying to the big tech companies/platforms, we want you to be accountable and enhance competition.
Most of the laws and regulations around the world are talking about anti-competition and antitrust laws, the need for increased accountability, or safeguarding privacy. This is because big tech companies, in what is referred to as surveillance capitalism, take a lot of data and information about their users to improve products and services. This behavioral surplus data is used to manipulate and control people without their knowledge through what is called instrumentarian power.
“The government wants these companies to be accountable, more open, and transparent in what they do without dominating the market.
Due to the domination factor that plays out in the tech space, some big techs always try to acquire anyone doing something in their niche. So, to avoid that, we need a level playing field where we can allow local start-ups to grow.”
Furthermore, the DG stated that the government views technology as more than just a tool, but as something that can be used to transform governance.
He added, “We are not saying the government should have total control over the technology that can lead to authoritarian regimes or dictators with full power to do whatever they want. Rather, we should use it to protect our democracy.”