This was announced at the Data Science Nigeria (DSN) Financial Inclusion Summit held in Lagos today where Microsoft was the Lead Sponsor.
Microsoft’s AI tools are rapidly changing how financial institutions operate, manage data, and interact with customers.
Revolution brought by AI
The revolution brought by AI – a blend of three advanced technologies: machine learning, natural language processing and cognitive computing – has huge implications for the financial services industry in Nigeria.
According to Microsoft Nigeria Country Manager, Mr. Akin Banuso: “With the use of modern tools like Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning platform, Financial Service Providers (FSPs) can crunch large volumes of data faster and more accurately, which considerably lessens time-to-market to deliver products and services.
“AI has the potential to advance nearly every field of human endeavour and address countless societal challenges. This is why we are investing in not only making the technology more accessible, but also building capacity in the use of machine learning concepts to address analytical gaps in financial inclusion and other areas,” he says.
Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative
To build this capacity, Microsoft, through its 4Afrika Initiative, has since 2013 been aggressively upskilling the African developer community in their use of modern technologies. Through its 16 AppFactory academies (including two in Nigeria), Interns4Afrika, MySkills4Afrika, Microsoft Virtual Academy and AI PopUp Lab programmes, it is pairing developers with technical experts to gain skills in AI, cloud computing, secure coding, machine learning, bot framework and data analytics – and encouraging them to innovate in fields such as financial services.
Microsoft’s portfolio of AI tools and services
Expanding further on the features of Microsoft’s portfolio of AI tools and services, Mr Banuso says that one of the challenges of FSPs is how to capture the unbanked population in the informal sector as they usually do not have formal identifiers. However, with the AI and machine learning capabilities offered by Microsoft Azure, FSPs can use facial recognition algorithms to eliminate duplication of persons. Similarly, FSPs can rewrite credit-scoring algorithms to better capture current realities based on observed customer patterns through the platform.
“AI makes it possible to circumvent traditional challenges with onboarding the unserved and underserved population,” he adds.
The five-day residential AI boot camp and Hackathon will feature face-to-face teaching, virtual online classes, and a hands-on hackathon using the Kaggle.com platform. Distinguished data scientists from leading research and academic institutions from the United States of America, the United Kingdom and South Africa will facilitate the sessions.
DSN lead convener speaks
Speaking to TechEconomy.ng on the role of Microsoft in the five-day bootcamp, the Lead Convener of Data Science Nigeria (DSN), Mr. Olubayo Adekanmbi, said that as the lead sponsor of the event, it was borne out of Microsoft’s commitment to capacity building.
He said, “They see need for the application of AI to solve some local challenges. As you are aware, Microsoft has developed a lot of tools.
“They are also supporting the bootcamp; their experts have flew-in to Nigeria to support the opportunity to engage young Nigerians in tools, applications and methodologies for research and used cases.
“So, Microsoft has given us all the support to make this a reality.”
Mr. Adekanmbi added, “Microsoft has got Azure software that allows end to end capacity to build on Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, etc., because they developed a custom-made tool either for cognitive, language, facial recognition, which anybody can plug on it and apply”.
The initiative is driven by a broader strategic intent to accelerate Nigeria’s development through a solutions-oriented approach to using Machine Learning to solve both social and business problems, while also encouraging skills development in the field of data science and AI.
Expected impact of DSN bootcamp
This in turn will increase employability, foster technological innovation and promote sustainable socio-economic development in Nigeria.
This is reinforced by the DSN’s vision to create one million new jobs in the next ten years through world-class knowledge and best-practice application.
The 4Afrika Initiative is Microsoft’s business and market development engine in Africa. Launched in 2013, it promotes affordable access to the internet, world-class skills and innovation to unlock and accelerate Africa’s potential to create technology not only for the continent, but for the world.