NITDA, Cisco Sign MoU On AI, Smart Agric, Others

The National Information Technology Development Agency has signed a Memorandum of Understanding, (MoU) with the Cisco System Incorporation to advance Nigeria’s digital transformation. Cisco’s Country Digital Acceleration (CDA) Programme is a global initiative that partners with government and private sector leaders to develop sustainable, secure, and inclusive communities powered by ethical and innovative technology solutions.

The partnership aims to unlock the value of digitalisation in Nigeria and drive an inclusive future. The Federal Government will collaborate with Cisco, industry, and academia to accelerate the national digitisation agenda by implementing pilot projects in five key areas: Repurposing NCAIR to create an AI and Cybersecurity Experience and Incubation Center; Establishing a Broadband Innovation Centre; Setting up a Smart Agriculture Demo Farm; Designing and deploying Technology Learning Hubs; and Incubating Defense Technology Solutions.

This partnership aligns with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s priority areas of accelerating diversification through digitisation and innovation, strengthening national security for peace and prosperity, and boosting agriculture to achieve food security.

Speaking during the signing of the MoU at the NITDA Headquarters, Abuja, the Director General, Kashifu Inuwa, CCIE maintained that AI and Cybersecurity go hand in hand, this has made it imperative to upgrade the NCAIR to a world class AI Lab because as “we develop the AI, we also need to develop and design it with a security in mind.

On the second initiative, the NITDA boss noted that broadband is the backbone to digitisation and digital transformation, and it provides the connectivity needed for transformation adding that the establishment of the innovation hub would encourage local startups and companies to come up with affordable broadband solution in Nigeria by using cutting edge technology.

He said, “We have a National Broadband Plan that aims to achieve 95 percent broadband coverage in Nigeria, and we need to be smart in the way we do things in order to achieve the target.”

According to Inuwa, the initiative on smart agriculture would help to improve food production and productivity in agriculture noting that the use of Internet of Things, (IoT), Drones and other technologies would enhance productivity in agriculture.

He said, “As part of the Presidential Redefined Priority Areas of achieving food security in the country, the President has mandated the cultivation of 500,000 acre of land in the country and to achieve this successfully and efficiently, we need to use technology.”

The Director General expressed the willingness of the Agency to work with Cisco to establish a pilot of the Learning Centre adding that it is part of the Agency mandate to deploy IOM technology to the under-served and unserved areas.

He said, “Cisco is already working with International Organisation for Migration, (IOM) for a pilot project in Maiduguri, Borno state capital to deploy three Learning Centers using Cisco technology. So, we want to see how we can partner to also scale up that initiative, because we also have as part of our mandate to deploy this technology in under-served and unserved communities.”

In his remarks, the Cisco’s Country Director, Mr. Clayton Naidoo expressed that Nigeria would benefit from the MoU as it would improve agricultural production, create job opportunities, and increase the financial strength of the citizens.

What we want to do is we want to make sure that we leverage technology to bring the right level of economic opportunity to Nigeria that will contribute towards economic growth and job creation. So that will be the first programme

According to him, Cisco has been unpacking the National Digital Agenda of the country and noted the Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan which are in alignment with the Cisco programmes, resources, technology and investment. “And we try to implement pilot projects to ensure that we can help advance the acceleration of that digital plan,” he added.

While reacting to each of the initiatives, Mr. Naidoo disclosed that Cisco is at the vanguard of Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence and will partner with NCAIR to build an experience centre in the country by using the experience.

According to him, the experience center will be designed to support organisations across Nigeria, building robust Cybersecurity and AI architectures which would be done through labs, design thinking rooms, and equipment that can test models.

While noting that Cisco intends to build a world-class experience center that would benefit all parts of Nigeria, the Country Director reiterated that “we are looking to bring the power of the Cisco business unit into the space using technology.”

“This is our immersive video technology using our platform called WebEx, where we can bring the power of those subject matter experts into Nigeria to collaborate and design together, he emphasised.”

He said the company will also build a broadband innovation hub with Galaxy Backbone in partnership with NITDA. He noted that the initiative is in alignment with the National Broadband Policy that was outlined by the Minister. He disclosed that Cisco would work with IXPs and various service providers to help them build networks that can serve underutilised communities or marginalized communities.

“We believe that with the technology that we are going to build, we will leverage the right level of platforms that will ensure that the internet economics are right. Because there is one thing building on technologies but if the technology is too expensive for service providers, they won’t be able to offer that into marginalised communities.”

While assuring that Cisco has an IoT team that builds sensor technology, he said the company will build a use case around smart agriculture using some agricultural bots and drone technology.

He commended the Agency for the partnership disclosing that Cisco is really focused on it. He said the work will start immediately. “We are really looking forward to the partnership and as Cisco, we believe in creating inclusive models that empower local communities and empower all citizens of Nigeria.

The highlight of the event was the visitation to a demo smart farm at the Abuja Technology Village.