… Says Establishment of Regulatory Agency Unnecessary

By Emmanuel Elebeke – Dubai

The National Informational Technology Development Agency, NITDA joined other innovation-driven nations across the world to launch a world-class IT research solutions to meet the unique IT needs of Nigeria called UnityBoard.

The solution is a 100 per cent Made-in-Nigeria education technology platform and hardware which is also an embedded Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).

It comprises a Steam Education Kit meant to drive learning and teaching of IoT, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence to accelerate local content development and indigenization of technology through human capital development in emerging technologies.

UnityBoard is a creative medium for advancing teaching and learning, designed specifically as hands-on learning tools to help today’s students build skills for the creative and digital economy through critical thinking, collaboration, communication, curiosity, problem-solving and invention.

It teaches Physical Computing combining hardware and software by focusing on teaching of computer science and computational thinking creating a perfect way to introduce middle school and older students to physical computing that opens up a world of opportunities in the fields of robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), engineering, fashion, medical industries, environmental sciences, performing arts and more; ensuring better preparedness to enter the workforce of the future.

The novel technology targets the academia, TETFUND, NCC, NUC and the entire education sector in the country.

Unveiling the product, minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami described the innovation as a local content initiative drive put in place by NITDA to build local capacity.

For him, the arrival of the technology is in line with the passion of the present administration for capacity building which can only be matched by the drive for local content development and provision.

Director General of NITDA and Author of the novel technology, Kashifu Inuwa said the UnityBoard was designed to spark the spirit of innovation in learners, and ignite great things.

‘‘When students are free to invent and create, they begin to see technology as a means for solving real-world problems and taking their learning to the next level.

‘‘By introducing the Internet of Things (IoT) in education via UnityBoard and allowing Internet based communications to happen between physical objects, sensors and controllers, will change educational institutions massively. By embedding sensors in objects and integrating cloud computing, augmented reality, wearable technologies and big data in this platform, different parameters of the educational environment can be measured and analysed to provide useful information. It will also create a new interaction between people and the environment in educational environment,’’ said Agu.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technological revolution that enables pervasive interaction between objects, people and environments. With IoT, data will be gathered by embedded sensors and actuators, which are then sent to specialised applications to create actionable information. IoT has been acknowledged as one of the foundation stones of Industry 4.0, due to its potential to change the existing industrial and business processes.

Giving a preview, Co-Author of the product and NITDA Director of Corporate and Strategy Planning, Dr. Agu Collins Agu said the platform is indigenous, progressive and is highly cost effective.

He described the UnityBoard as the perfect platform that brings both Professionals and Students (Industry and Academia) together; a made-in-Nigeria IoT (internet of things) fully featured Development Board and Educational Kit bringing internet of things at your fingertips with the possibility of talking to the cloud, creating great opportunities to assimilate smart technologies, design the next big thing and solve unique problems.

According to him, it is maker friendly and fully compatible with Arduino and peripheral modules making it programmable via Arduino IDE and compatible with all the example codes and libraries for Arduino. It is also compatible with Graphical Programming Environment such as XOD, ArduBlock, Scratch for Arduino (S4A), Minibloq, Modkit, Visuino, Embrio, GraspIO etc

He said “this product came about after we thought of how do we come up with a product that will impact peoples’ lives in this technology age? IoT and AI starts from the board. With the board, he said the federal government does not need a new ministry or agency for AI and Robotics because NITDA is already doing same.

‘’With the advent and growth of the IoT, physical environments are becoming smarter and more interconnected than ever before. This has changed the way we live by improving sustainability, efficiency, accuracy and economy in almost every aspect of our lives. IoT has been leveraged in many industries such as healthcare systems, traffic management, energy management, education, environment monitoring, smart homes and smart cities.

‘‘What we do in most part of Africa is tech adoption rather than adaptation. It is so because of international politics where there is no permanent ally and permanent enemy. There is total revolution in NITDA,’’ he said.

He further explained that some of the start-ups actually helped in building up the board, saying that it is where the building block starts as it helps to develop local capacity.

In terms of cost, he said it is cheaper than any equivalent in the market, bearing in mind the income per capital of Nigerians.

‘‘No matter how much put into it, the output is enormous and overwhelming. Most countries visited the board and we are so proud by making Nigeria and Africa proud for exhibiting such a high tech technology.’’

On what next, Agu said: ‘‘Once we get back to Nigeria, the second phase starts in collaboration with other stakeholders. For us to market our population, they must have the skill sets and capacity to match the emerging world of technology advancement

”We hope to build the skills starting from primary schools to arrest the impending crisis that may erupt from population explosion. For us, human capital can only be turned to assets when they are refined in tune with emerging technology.’’

According to him, the revolutionary technology took them three years to be completed.



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