Artificial Intelligence tools are rapidly changing how financial institutions operate, manage data, and interact with customers. The revolution brought by the 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 can crunch large volumes of data faster and more accurately, which considerably lessens time-to-market to deliver products and services.
“The 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,” Banuso says.
To build this capacity, the 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.
Expanding further on the features of Microsoft’s portfolio of the AI tools and services, 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.
A survey conducted by our correspondent has shown that the AI platform, Azure, will help Nigeria achieve its goal of reducing the financial exclusion rate to 20 per cent by 2020. With the AI and machine learning capabilities offered by Microsoft Azure, the FSPs could 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.
“The AI makes it possible to circumvent traditional challenges with on-boarding the unserved and underserved population,” he adds. Recently, a Data Science Nigeria financial inclusion summit in Lagos featured 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 facilitated the sessions.
The initiative was 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. 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 10 years through world-class knowledge and best-practice application.