Data Science Nigeria Holds 2019 AI Summit with Talks, Inter-School Debate and Launch of the First-Ever AI Textbook in Africa

Ejike Kanife

The 2019 Artificial Intelligence Summit kicked off on a warm note today. The summit is organised by Data Science Nigeria, a leading AI organisation in Nigeria and Africa whose goal is to raise 1 million Artificial Intelligence talents across Nigeria within the next 10 years.

Unveiling of the first AI textbook in Africa

The biggest occasion of the day was the launch and unveiling of the Artificial Intelligence textbook for primary and secondary school students. The book titled: Beginners’ Artificial Intelligence & Python Programming for Primary and Junior Secondary Schools is taunted to be the first of its kind in Africa.

According to its author, leading AI expert and founder of Data Science Nigeria, Olubayo Adekanbi, the book which is straightforward and engaging introduces children to the concept of machine learning and helps them to understand that deep learning is a system that can interpret images in pictures and videos.

“The vision behind this book is to make it available free of charge,” Adekanbi told TechNext. “And I’m glad to say that one of our immediate partners, Softcom has funded distribution of the first set of production. The books will be distributed in a very structured way to ensure that the book does not just end up in a school. It will be distributed through the ‘train the trainer program’”.

He went on to explain that the “train the trainer” program is a one day training for teachers of maths and computer science of both public and private schools. The teachers will be guided as regards the book so they can effectively help the students practicalise the teachings in the book.

The Talks

The summit proper began with Tom Diettrich, professor emeritus of computer science at Oregon State University and Chief Scientist at BigML. He gave a presentation on Artificial Intelligence for Sustainable Development where he highlighted how the Trans-African HydroMeteroligical Observatory (TAHMO) is monitoring the weather with AI.

Dr Tom Diettrich delivering his speech

This it achieves with the deployment of 526 automated weather stations in Africa, 22 of which are in Nigeria, TAHMO. Amongst other things, the organisation could also monitors traffic congestion using solar-powered camera phones, measure the effectiveness of flu quarantine using cell phone call data records and poverty mapping via satellite remote sensing.

Next on the podium was CEO of Retina AI Health Inc, Stephen Odaibo, who gave a presentation on Artificial Intelligence for Health Care Delivery. He decried the massive brain drain from Nigeria especially in the healthcare sector insisting that while in 2012 there were approximately 500 ophthalmologists practicing in Nigeria for a then population of 190m, today there are 350 opthalmologists serving a population of more than 200 million.

Dr Stephen Odaibo at AI Summit 2019

He pointed out that in the whole of Nigeria there isn’t a single Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) machine. The combined factor of inadequate medical professionals and non-existent facilities is more reason why Nigeria needs to start applying AI into health care.

He noted that with a phone image of an affected eye, he could carry out scans and detect problems without being physically there. Thus, issues of clinical data (history and symptoms, physical exam, lab tests, medical imaging) could be addressed using AI.

Tomi Amao, Chief Technical Officer at Softcom Nigeria was up next and he gave a presentation on how businesses and organisations can make better decisions with the adoption of AI. While stating that a lot of organisations take business decisions that aren’t backed with strong data analytics, he went on to state the 3 key requirements for AI to thrive in an organisation.

Tomi Amao

These requirements are data that is structured, a means of harnessing such a data, and the right people, both technical and business people who would make sound decisions.


There was also a panel discussion on How AI drives socio-economic development. The panel was moderated by Cathleen Siminyu, Regional Network Coordinator at Artificial Intelligence for Development.

The panelists included Eric Sodomka, Research scientist at Facebook; Victor Ohuruogu, Program Manager, UN Foundation Global partnership on sustainable development data; Ayodeji Balogun, CTO Terragon Group, Tomi Amao, CTO Softcom Nigeria and Dr Stephen Odaibo.

The panelists

At the panel, Victor Ohuruogu complained that getting access to data is a problem in Africa even though there are tons of them sitting under the weight of government bureaucracy.

He decried the lack of policies and regulatory frameworks which would empower people to access data as well as the financial cost involved. He also pointed out lack of trust between data owners and data holders (privacy) as an issue insisting that all these problems will adversely affect the availability of data for AI application.

Cross section of attendees

On how AI could help in reaching the unbanked in Nigeria, Tomi Amao CTO of Softcom stated that with over 100 million mobile users in Nigeria and only 40 million unique bank accounts, the best way to reach the unbanked is clearly through mobile phones.

However, data shows that many of the unbanked would rather you help them carry out transactions rather than learn how to do it themselves. Thus, his organisation is helping the unbanked carry out transaction and access basic financial services by applying AI in automating responses and generally attending to the unbanked through their mobile phones.

The panelists

On the application of AI into marketing and advert, Ayodeji Balogun, CTO of Terragon Group noted that every business is trying to grow which is why people invest in marketing. But there’s a lot of wastage as about 50% of funds put into marketing end up yielding nothing.

However, with AI, you can measure what works and what doesn’t work and as such invest money into what works. As such, AI helps to personalise and tailor adverts for organisations and as such maximise advert campaigns thereby ensuring growth and profit. It also helps optimise customer experience.

On the issue of availability and accessibility of data, Mr. Wole Ademola of Grid3 Nigeria in his presentation titled Grid3 Nigeria Geospatial Data in support of Artificial Intelligence notes that with GRID3, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) contains a wealth of datacabout Nigeria, classified by geographic locations. This therefore makes GRID3 the perfect source for data that would drive AI in Nigeria.

Wole Ademola, GIS Consultant at GRID3

According to Mr Ademola, the information on GRID3 is free, has high resolution and high quality. It can be used to predict geospatial events such as car crashes, crimes or even helping businesses predict the best places to locate their next offices or stores.

After the talks came the Inter-school debate competition among three schools: Atlantic Hall Epe, Julliard Academy Magodo, and Chrisland Schools Opebi. Each team chose a random topic to talk about, topics like will I ever ride a self driving car? How will Artificial Intelligence help the Nigerian economy? Will artificial intelligence take our jobs?

Chrisland Schools won the inter-school AI debate

In the end, following online voting by attendees, Chrisland Schools Opebi won the debate, Julliard Academy came second while Atlantic Hall came third.

The summit ended with light refreshments as the young developers selected for the DSN bootcamp took their leave.

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