…seeks collaboration towards protection of digital rights
By Tom Okpe
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep Benjamin Okezie Kalu has emphasized commitment of the Federal Government in the responsible use of Artificial Intelligence, (AI) to improve the economy.
He however, warned that the Government will not condone any form of abuse that will affect National Security.
Kalu made the call, during a courtesy visit to him by a delegation from Meta Platforms Inc, (formerly Facebook) led by the Vice President, (Africa, Middle East & Turkey), Kojo Boakye and the Director, West Africa, Adaora Ikenze on Tuesday.
Meta is an American multinational technology conglomerate that owns and operates Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp, among other products and services.
The deputy speaker while appraising Meta’s contributions to Nigeria’s digital econony noted that the company’s significant investments in Nigeria, particularly in the area of fibre optic cables, mobile partnerships, and business capacity support for entrepreneurs and SMEs, stressed that news of the 45,000km Africa subsea cable landing in Lagos and Akwa Ibom States is particularly exciting, given its potential socio-economic impact on the country.
He said: “I heard you mention things about AI. You are interested in AI when you mentioned the various areas where META is involved beyond Facebook and IG.
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“Then I saw you’re interested in AI and I’m happy that the Government of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu chose technology as one of the areas that will help this administration to advance towards achieving its set national objectives.
“So, we understand the relevance of AI and we also appreciate your interest in our national artificial intelligence strategy.
“As a government, we are committed to fostering innovation and responsible use of AI and its responsible emphasis.
“It could be abused as well. We value industry input. We value collaborations. And we look forward to engaging with stakeholders like you to ensure that our own AI strategy aligns fully with global best practices, serving the interests of both technology companies and the public, especially our own citizens.”
Speaking about the proposed digital rights bills, Kalu sought the collaboration of Meta in the protection of digital rights.
“In our mind, we are intentional about content moderation, and digital rights bills. Regarding the proposed content, moderation and digital rights bills, we understand the importance of the balance and fair regulatory framework. I want to re-emphasize that.
“And I also want to say that our legislative process is open to constructive dialogue, embrace this one that we’re bringing up and other ones that we’re going to showcase as well.
“We welcome your insights and recommendations in the course of that engagement, it will not just be a presentation that will not be a working document for us to come up with another amendment to our law or repeal.
“We will take your opinion seriously. I’m sure, if you participate, if you accept our hand of partnership to engage more, together, we can work towards a bill that will ensure that digital rights are protected”.
Kalu also hinted that by January next year, his office will be convening a sectoral policy dialogue in collaboration with advocacy for Civic Engagement Center, focusing on information technology and innovation.
While seeking the support of Meta, the Deputy Speaker added that the regulatory laws espoused by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria Act, (ARCON, 2022) are not meant to punish anybody but to clean up the space to avoid abuse.
Earlier, leader of the delegation, Boakye informed the Deputy Speaker of their intention to initiate some digital expansion in Africa, saying it will benefit Nigeria as a country.