By Dr. Olusola Sayeed Ayoola, Founder and CEO, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Nigeria (RAIN)
At the 3rd Virtual Summit of the Association of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning of Nigeria (AAIMLON) held on July 29th, 2023, I had the privilege to speak on a topic that I believe is of paramount importance for our nation's development - "AI-Driven Augmented Learning for National Skill Development."
The summit's theme, "Towards AI and the Metaverse for National Development," aptly highlighted the crucial role artificial intelligence plays in our society and the transformative potential when combined with the Metaverse. However, it is essential to address the pressing issue of national skill development in Nigeria, which forms the backbone of our economic growth and social progress.
Recent headlines, such as the Dangote refinery hiring 11,000 trained workers from India instead of young people from Nigeria and other African countries, underscore the urgency of nurturing a skilled workforce within our nation. Similarly, the prevalence of expatriates filling key positions in various sectors, from aviation to engineering projects, raises concerns about our ability to meet the demands of our own development.
To overcome these challenges, we must embark on deliberate and long-term national skill development efforts. While the process may take decades to see a significant impact, it is crucial to take the first steps now, as the Greek proverb wisely says, "A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit."
The heart of the challenge lies in our education system. We face obstacles such as inadequate funding, outdated curricula, and a shortage of qualified teachers. Moreover, there is a mismatch between the skills taught and those demanded by industries. Bridging this gap requires collaboration between educational institutions and industries to tailor curricula to meet industry needs and provide work-integrated learning and apprenticeship programs.
Investing in research and development initiatives is another crucial aspect of fostering innovation and specialized skills in our industries. To ensure sustainable growth, we must equip our educators with technical resources such as laboratory equipment and experienced technical instructors. Augmented learning emerges as a transformative solution to tackle these challenges effectively.
Augmented learning combines traditional learning methods with augmented reality technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Extended Reality (ER), and Mixed Reality (MR). By offering interactive and multimedia-based learning experiences, augmented learning captivates learners' attention, leading to improved understanding and retention of knowledge.
Furthermore, AI-driven augmented learning provides real-time feedback and adaptive software, allowing learners to progress at their own pace and focus on areas that need improvement. Personalized and adaptive learning caters to the diverse needs of our learners, resulting in better performance and success in their educational journey.
Compared to traditional learning methods, AI-driven augmented learning offers dynamic content, simulations, and hands-on experiences. For instance, medical students can practice surgeries in a simulated environment, and students can interact with virtual objects and environments, making education engaging and effective.
To implement AI-based augmented learning, we must start by establishing a national team with diverse skills, from animation to software development, to build a metaverse for augmented learning. Collaborating with key industry human resources officials will help identify specific skill gaps, and relevant academics and professional bodies must be involved in designing training curricula.
Data accessibility and digital transformation are crucial for AI development. AI models associated with recommender systems, reinforcement learning, computer vision, and natural language processing require data to thrive.
In conclusion, embracing AI-driven augmented learning is vital for propelling our workforce toward global competitiveness. By bridging the gap between education and industry needs, investing in research and technology, and creating an enabling environment, we can transform Nigeria into a nation of skilled and prosperous professionals.
I urge all stakeholders - the government, industry leaders, academics, and citizens - to join hands in revolutionizing skill development in Nigeria. Together, let us leverage the power of AI-driven augmented learning to unlock a future of limitless possibilities and build a brighter future for our beloved nation.
Thank you all for being part of this journey towards a more skilled and prosperous Nigeria. Together, let us make history and change the world through education and augmented learning.