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Google: Harnessing AI Potential In Africa

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Emerging technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are technologies that are nurtured around the world in solving societal problems.
Africans should not be left behind in utilising these technologies to build solutions that would help their communities and beyond to improve their lives.
Google recognises that it is important for everyone to know that emerging technology is socially-beneficial and upholds the highest standards of scientific excellence.
In its bid to make Africans utilise these technologies, Google, penultimate Wednesday, unveiled its new AI Centre in Accra, Ghana.
The AI Centre which Google announced last year now has a team working on building AI-powered solutions to real-world problems, including helping communities in Africa and beyond to improve their lives.
AI is a powerful, multi-purpose technology with the potential to transform industrial and societal processes alike.
Governments have an important role to play in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders to ensure good outcome.
It should be noted that Google uses ML and AI in all its products; and AI and ML are used every day by people across the world, many of whom don’t even realise they are using it.
Machine Learning is used for everything from filtering out the spam in your email to powering the Google Assistant on your smart speaker.
From taking the perfect low-light photos on the Pixel 3 to helping the world speak the same language through Google Translate.
Google’s AI Centre was opened in Ghana in order to build technology that benefits people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints.
The researchers of Google AI Centre in Accra brought a fresh perspective and expertise to build new technologies in Africa that could contribute positively to life here, as well as around the globe.
Google AI Accra forms part of the company’s structured efforts to explore and integrate more diverse experiences/learnings beyond present-day centres of innovation.
AI by Africa, for the world, helps to highlight the crucial role that the new centre will be playing in the vision of using AI to solve problems for everyone in every part of the world.
Working with partners from such diverse fields as medicine, transportation, environmental groups and small businesses can help to evolve AI and ML tools to meet real-world challenges.
This is why Google shares its ML tools, so that organisations outside Google can benefit.
Google’s AI for social good programme will include projects such as: flood prediction, earthquake aftershocks and environmental protection.
For healthcare and biology, algorithm is developed to predict heart attacks and strokes simply from images of the retina  with no needle or blood draw required.
Google researchers had helped doctors to detect the spread of breast cancer tumours as doctors and the Machine Learning system are better working together.
The Head of Google AI Accra, Mr Moustapha Cisse, said operations at the AI Centre were based on Google’s AI principles that ensure that things done will benefit the people, not violate their rights and done in a responsible way.
“At Google AI, we are conducting research that advances the state-of-the-art in the field, applying AI to products and developing tools to ensure that everyone can access AI.
“AI is no longer science fiction but now a practical software engineering tool that is proving crucial to advancing science and tackling some of the biggest global challenges as well as helping millions of people in their everyday lives.
“It can help people focus on what is relevant and open up new ways to solve problems in almost every imaginable field.
“Examples include AI helping pathologists to spot cancer cells on sides, advising farmers on how to address problems with their crops and allowing manufacturers to better predict equipment breakdown.
“It helps in making predictions in less than one second for farmers and their yields, ‘’ he said.
Cisse said that ultimately, AI’s biggest impact would come when everyone could access it.
He also said that Google was committed to publishing their research participation in academic conferences and sharing tools and datasets.
He said that AI was for everyone, listing some of the things it could be used for as; creating more efficient dairy farms, predicting cargo space on flights and routing customers’ helpline calls.
Cisse mentioned spotting anomalies on a food production line, solving the youth unemployment challenges, better flight route predictions and others.
He said that alongside the tremendous opportunities AI offers, there are new challenges like society’s thinking about fairness, building inclusive experiences and equipping the workforce for jobs of the future.
The Google official said that AI’s influence on the world would be determined by the choice people made in embracing it, the guidance, boundaries set for its application by government and international bodies.
He noted that Google was committed to playing a role in helping societies everywhere to realise the benefits of AI, while minimising risks in accordance with society’s cultural norms and needs.
Cisse said that AI at Google was guided by seven principles: to be socially beneficial, avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias, be built and tested on safety, be accountable to people and incorporate privacy design principles
He listed others as: upholding high standards of scientific excellence and be readily available for users that are in accord with the principles.
A research scientist, Mr Yann Dauphin, said that AI would help to break down the barriers of language.
He also said that, in finding a way out and to do things better, there is need for data of languages.
“Google researchers are experts in natural language technologies and will build systems that learn to understand and use language in context.
“The focus areas include syntax, discourse, conversation, multilingual modeling, sentiment analysis, question answering and summarisation, ’’ Dauphin said.
A software engineer, Nyalleng Moorosi, said that for AI to work well for town planning, there is the need to understand exactly what the people need.
She said that understanding where the people live and their environment would enable one to know what they want.
Mr Mohammad Nassar, also a software engineer, said that exposing the computer to a number of examples would enable the people to learn about the facts and thus make AI very effective.
AI is helping Google to organise the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful in exciting new ways, solving problems for its users, customers and the world.
If properly harnessed, AI can deliver great benefits for economies and societies and support decision-making which is fairer, safer and more inclusive and informed.
As AI technology evolves, it is expected that policy stakeholders and the global community as a whole will continue to learn more.
Ogbolu writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Chiazo Ogbolu

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Imperative Of Overhauling Nigeria’s Security Agencies

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Recurring terrorists’ killings, banditry, kidnapping, deadly farmer-herder clashes and other related crimes across the country, have, no doubt, reached embarrassing situation. These dastardly incidents have also elicited hue and cry, prayers and suggestions on how to contain the incidents.
Security agencies have upped their ante fighting with tenacity to curb crime and tackle terrorism in various theatres, while President Muhammadu Buhari, has reiterated his administration’s commitment of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, recently reassured of government’s commitment to protect lives and property, when he announced that more personnel would be recruited for the nation’s security agencies. He said that more weapons would be acquired to tackle the hydra-headed problem, adding that more would be done to ramp up surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Osinbajo spoke when he hosted clergymen from the northern part of Nigeria, under the aegis of Arewa Pastors’ Forum for Peace. The vice president said the Federal Government was committed towards containing the threats and security concerns in the country. The vice president assured the pastors that the Federal Government was doing everything that needed to be done.
“We are handling security well, and as you know, including military deployment in diverse fields, like the Boko Haram in the North-East. In fact, we have to recruit more into the army, and much faster than we ever did because we need men on the ground and resources to buy more arms, to buy more platforms.
“ At the last meeting of the National Security Council, we had discussions on how to beef up the military’s platforms. How do we beef up the numbers? How do we recruit more men and women into the army? How do we collaborate more with local vigilante, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) and all that.
“So, there is a lot going on in terms of trying to beef up security; the security situation is one that is very challenging. We are also looking at aspects of surveillance, how we can do more aerial surveillance using drones and electronic devices to improve surveillance,” he said.
Osinbajo assured the clergymen that the Federal Government was also committed to finding lasting solutions to the perennial crisis in communities in the North and other parts of the country, including the ones bothering on religious prejudices. He urged the group to also come up with ideas and thoughts on how to ensure lasting peace in the country.
President of the forum, Bishop Mbayo Japhet, said the group’s visit to the Presidential Villa was to support the administration and the vice president. The bishop described  Osinbajo as an apostle of peace.
President Buhari, at the recent inauguration of two Nigeria Air Force Agusta 109 Power Helicopter and Mi-17 E Helicopter at the Eagle Square, Abuja, said the military would be re-professionalised and re-equipped to meet the growing exigencies of security in the country. He assured Nigerians that the promise of ending terrorism would be realised. The president urged the Nigeria Air Force to ensure discipline in their operations, and a strong maintenance culture that would enable the nation to derive maximum benefits from the newly acquired helicopters.
“We promise to re-professionalise and re-equip the armed forces and security agencies to effectively discharge their duties to our nation. Professionalism, capacity building and adequately equipping the armed forces and other security agencies are a major policy thrust of the administration. I have no doubt that the deployment of these Agusta 109P gunships and the M-17E Helicopter would add impetus to the combat efficiency of the Air Force in combating our contemporary security challenges.’’
Buhari said that two earlier inaugurated Agusta 109 Power Helicopter gunships, which were procured from Italy over a year ago, had made impact on the war against terrorism. He commended the support of the governments of Italy and the Russian Federation, and efforts of the Italian and Russian ambassadors to Nigeria, at sustaining the strategic partnership which facilitated this acquisition.
“I want to, once again, salute the resolve of our armed forces and the invaluable contributions of all security agencies for their efforts towards the decimation of Boko Haram. Your contributions in internal security, peace keeping and humanitarian operations in places like The Gambia, Guinea, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Cameroon have not only been a source of pride to us as a nation, but has also projected us as a reliable regional power.
“During my inaugural speech as President, I promised to put an end to Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping and other forms of criminalities that have bedevilled our country. You will all agree with me that the successes we have achieved so far, have restored our pride and honour, the world over,’’Buhari said.
The president appreciated Nigerians for their support to the military and other security agencies against terrorism, banditry and kidnapping, adding that the security challenges would be collectively won.
On his part, the Minister of Defence, Bashir Salihi Magashi, said the purchase of the helicopters further demonstrated the administration’s commitment to bringing the security challenges in the country under control.
Sharing a similar sentiment, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said the visionary approval to purchase more aircraft for the Air Force since 2015 had impacted positively on the fight against terrorism and other crimes.
“Your excellency’s government has so far procured and inducted 22 aircraft. And the service is expecting 17 additional platforms including 12 x Super Tulcanos from the US,’’ he said.
Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, recently ordered the deployment of aerial surveillance helicopters to major cities in the South-West and North-West. He said that the Police air wing operational base in Abuja, would cater for Abuja–Kaduna highways and the adjoining states in the North-West and North-Central.
The National Assembly, on its part, strongly agreed on the urgency of boosting the capacity of Nigeria’s security agencies to enable them tackle the security challenges. The leadership of the National Assembly recently met with President Buhari over the security issues in the country and other matters of governance. Speaking afterwards, Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said that there was need to provide solution on how to tackle the security challenges in the intermediate and the long term.
“We should be able to come up with some strategies, the road map to ensure that we secure the lives and properties of Nigerians. We believe that it is imperative that we are able to provide those necessary equipment and welfare for the armed forces of this country and the police, to ensure that they are able to operate and perform efficiently and effectively,’’ he said.
According to Lawan, in order to minimise the casualties of the armed forces and improve efficiency, technology should be applied.
Security analysts are of the view that, aside enlisting more men and procuring more weapons, revving up intelligence gathering is also critical as this will keep security personnel ahead of the criminals or terrorists as the case may be.
Okoronkwo is of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

By: Chijioke Okoronkwo

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NEW Rivers: Promotion Of Workers’ Welfare

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All across the country, Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is known as Mr Projects.  He is popular for his commitment  to expanding  the frontiers  of infrastructural development of Rivers State.  But there is an aspect of Governor Wike’s performance  that is not as pronounced. His commitment  to workers’ welfare.
Many have forgotten  that Governor Wike took over the reins of leadership at a time the morale of Rivers workers was at its lowest level.  The immediate past APC Administration owed the workers three months salary arrears. Even Pensioners were owed four months arrears.
Governor Wike cleared the arrears and has since placed workers welfare on his top priority list. He has always opened a line for dialogue  and settlement of disputes that arise in the course of government-workers relationship.
The Rivers State Government has built and completed  the Ultra-modern Secretariat of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The Former NLC Secretariat was gutted  by fire in 2015. Since then, the Rivers NLC operated from makeshift  facilities.
On 29th June, 2018, Governor Wike invited the NLC President,  Comrade Ayuba Wabba to lay the Foundation of a new Secretariat.  That Secretariat is now being  used by Rivers workers.  The State Government  is also constructing another Secretariat  for the Trade Union Congress (TUC). That Secretariat is almost ready for Commissioning.
During the commencement  of construction,  Governor Wike said that the State Government embarked on the construction of the  two secretariats  in appreciation of the cordial working relationship with Rivers workers.
“We have worked harmoniously with labour. They have not troubled this administration with unnecessary strikes . In order to build stability, we have set up a structure that will enhance the performance of labour.
“This project must be completed by December.  I don’t want to hear excuses.  The contractor has been mobilised.  We will also build a secretariat for the Trade Union Congress “.
Performing the flag off, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba lauded the Rivers State Governor for taking steps to improve the working condition of workers.
“This will go down in history as a landmark as you are one of the governors who has worked with Labour for a better society”.
He said that the partnership between labour and the Rivers State Government will lead to faster development in Rivers State.
”Once workers are happy, they will put in their best and the state will benefit in terms of development “.
The NLC President added that the congress was overwhelmed by the gesture of the Rivers State Government, which will advance the productive relationship between Labour and the Government.
“Workers and employers are supposed to be partners in progress. It is when we partner together that we will be able to deliver on our various mandates. This is commendable and I urge that it should continue”, the NLC President said.
Rivers State NLC Chairman, Comrade Beatrice Itubor said by constructing the Rivers State Secretariat of the congress, Governor Wike has shown goodwill, which will be reciprocated by the workers.
The NLC Secretariat built by the Wike Administration  is a three-storey building with conference halls, offices, stores and multiple staircases.
The Secretariat was commissioned as part of the first 100days of the second term of Governor Wike.  It emphasised the commitment of the Rivers State Governor to the welfare of workers.
Speaking at the Commissioning of the NLC Secretariat,   Governor Wike said that his administration will continue  to partner with labour for the development of Rivers State.
He said that the State Government resolved to create enabling environment for labour leaders to work towards improving labour/government relations.
Rivers State Governor,  Nyesom Ezenwo Wike called on the leadership of labour in the state to always place the interest of Rivers State above other considerations in their engagements with the State Government.
“For me, Rivers first  before  any other thing. Before you go on strike or declare any dispute with the Rivers State Government,  look through and check what the implications would be for Rivers State.
. Chairman of NLC Rivers State,  Comrade Beatrice Itubo commended the Rivers State Governor for building the Secretariat despite recent economic challenges.  She said that labour is committed  to improving  synergy with the State Government for the development of the State.
Representative of the NLC President,  Dr Comfort Okoh said Governor Wike is the authentic leader who is needed at the national level to advance national growth.
Aside the Secretariat,  Governor Wike recently commissioned a Civil Servants Quarters  in the heart of Old GRA in Port Harcourt.  Last year, the Governor unveiled another Civil Servants Quarters at Lagos Street,  Port Harcourt and Doctors Quarters at the GRA.
Governor Wike said that his administration remains committed to ensuring that civil servants live in beautiful and secured residential Quarters.
“ See where you are going to live free of charge.  Assuming you are going to pay house rent here in Old GRA,  you know it will be very costly.
“This is a very secured environment.  Government is here for you. To give you the best. You also have to contribute your own quota as Civil Servants.”
Governor Wike urged Rivers civil servants to reciprocate the commitment of the State Government to their welfare. He said that they are under obligation to give their best to the state.
“Work for the people of the state. Civil servants should reciprocate and work for the people of Rivers State.
“I dont know any State that can say they have these  facilities. This is the third time. We built one at Lagos Street,  we built the Doctors Quarters and then this one.
“You have no excuse not to contribute the best. Take this property as your own and keep it clean. Civil servants I give that challenge   keep your environment clean. “
The Rivers State Governor assured workers that his Administration will invest in the development of more housing quarters for civil servants.
“We will build more houses for civil servants to stay . Take it as your personal building.”
Governor Wike pointed out that Judges Quarters, constructed by his Administration,  is  one of the most beautiful residential estates  in the country.  He said that Judges Quarters will soon be commissioned.
The commitment to workers  welfare does not mean that there are no areas for further engagement.  It simply means that Governor Wike is ever willing to address workers needs within the available resources and with the required speed necessary at all times.
The harmony that exists cannot be underestimated.  Several states are owing salaries and pensions,  running into years. While State Economies are collapsing across the country,  Rivers State is waxing stronger.
Much as the opposition is unwilling to recognise this fact, they appreciate  the truth that Governor Wike has enhanced  working conditions and stabilised the work environment.
The key projects developed by Governor  Wike will serve as the premise for further partnership between the State Government and Rivers workers.
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media.

 

Simeon Nwakaudu

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Using Weather Forecast To Boost Agric

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The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) predicts a below-normal rainfall, dwindling amount and duration in many parts of the country.
Observers, therefore, posit that the pattern of rainfall can affect food production except there is sensitisation to climate-smart agricultural practices and proper weather information dissemination to the farmers.
Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change.
Researchers believe that widespread changes in rainfall and temperature patterns threaten agricultural production and increase the vulnerability of people who are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.
According to them, the threats can be reduced by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers as well as increasing resilience and resource use efficiency in agricultural production systems.
They note that CSA promotes coordinated actions by farmers, researchers, private sector, civil society and policymakers towards climate-resilient pathways.
Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, while reviewing NiMet’s report admits that the country is expected to experience a below-normal rainfall season.
He observes that rains are expected to start late, especially in the northern part of the country while the south eastern zone as well as the coastal areas will experience a normal onset of the rains.
He notes that most of the northern states will experience earlier-than-normal end growing season while shorter length of the growing season is predicted for most parts of the country.
He also says that there will be frequent and severe dry spell over the northern region during the rainy season.
“Dry spell will be more frequent and severe, ranging from 10 to 18 days in some parts of the extreme north around June and July, while the little dry season or (August break) in parts of the south is expected to be pronounced.
“The expected below normal rainfall in parts of the country does not rule out the possibility of isolated flash floods due to high intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in places that are naturally prone to flooding.
“In every season, dry spells occur and in certain cases, lead to crop losses; farmers and other stakeholders are advised to get in touch with NiMet to access meteorological updates within the growing season.
“This is because these are risk factors for farmers in the affected areas and have to be carefully and scientifically managed.
According to Sirika, early release of the SRP before the beginning of the rainy season is to ensure effective harnessing of the climate resource.
He agrees that such information will further guarantee minimal losses from associated hazards, which are becoming quite devastating in this era of climate change.
He says that an increase of at least 30 per cent agricultural yields can be achieved if relevant meteorological information is utilised.
Similarly, Prof. Sani Mashi, the director-general of NiMet, says that farmers in the northern part of the country, mostly the Sahel zones are advised not to plant early as the country is likely to experience late onset of rains.
Mashi explains that early cessation of rains in the northern part will lead to shorter length of growing season and recommends  early provision and access to improved and drought resistant variety seeds.
“Normal onset is expected over coastal and some south-east states while the earliest onset date is predicted to be from March 7 around the coastal region of the south-south region.
“The onset dates are expected to change northwards with areas around Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, Dutse, Potiskum, Kano and Nguru having onset of rains from June 16.
“The earliest cessation dates are expected to be from September 29 around the north-western parts of the country while most of the north is expected to witness cessation dates within October,’’ he explains.
He explains further that while the growing season is expected to end between late October and mid-November, parts of the central and southern states are expected to experience end of the season by mid-November to early December while the season is expected to end by late December along the coast.
According to him, governments at all levels are advised to embark on awareness and sensitisation of farmers and other stakeholders on CSA practices such as on-farm water harvesting structures, soil and water conservation practices and land preservation.
“Farmers are also encouraged to make provision for irrigation water during the predicted periods of dry spell.
“The warmer-than-normal temperatures predicted in February and April are expected to affect livestock in some parts of the country, particularly the northern states where rainfall has not yet established.
“Decrease in fodder production from dry land, increase in vector-borne diseases, internal parasite infestation and mortality rate is likely to increase during these months due to temperature fluctuations, shell quality and egg weight in layers may also be affected.
“The colder-than-normal daytime temperatures in March may affect day old chicks and increase feed conversion ratio in layers and broilers while the spread of heat-related diseases is likely to increase as a result of the predicted warmer conditions in most parts of the country.
“Good veterinary practices for livestock vaccination, fisheries and aquaculture management should be adhered to because fish production is likely to be adversely affected as a result of warmer-than- normal conditions especially in the northern part of the country,’’ he warns.
Ogbaje writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

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