AI Technology and National Security Initiatives, by Inyene Ibanga
Governments around the world are developing integrated frameworks for the adoption and deployment of information and communications technology (ICT) in their national security architectures.
Today, technology is playing a significant role in the operations of various security/defence organisations in advanced economies such as the United States of America, Russia, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and other emerging technology-driven countries.
Specifically, Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging field of technology with significant potentials for national security, and many nations are developing AI applications for a range of military functions.
Military services have started incorporating AI and Robotics into semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles, including fighter aircrafts, drones, ground vehicles and naval vessels.
Also, the intelligence communities in a host of the mentioned countries have several ongoing projects to incorporate AI algorithms and computer vision into intelligence collection cells that would automatically sift through drone footage for actionable information.
Such AI applications are similar to those for commercial semi-autonomous vehicles, which use AI technologies to identify the environment, recognise obstacles, combine sensor data, plan navigation, and also communicate with other vehicles.
Artificial Intelligence is a branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that usually require human intelligence. It describes any task performed by a machine that demonstrates behaviours associated with human intelligence. These include planning, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, knowledge representation, perception, motion, and some minimal level of social intelligence and creativity.
Communications, healthcare, disease control, education, agriculture, transportation (autonomous vehicles), space exploration, science, and entertainment are among those areas already benefiting from AI.
Nigeria’s defence/security (military, paramilitary and intelligence) services have been stretched beyond their traditional capacity as they grapple with seemingly unending insecurity across all parts of the country.
Government and citizens acknowledge that banditry, kidnapping, militancy, the Boko Haram insurgency, and other sundry criminalities have overstretched the defence/security forces in terms of personnel, logistics, and even funding.
Stakeholders in the Nigeria Project are increasingly pointing in the direction of technology as the next available option to help reduce the scourge of insecurity and its attendant implications.
In recognition of this reality, the Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Magashi (rtd) has disclosed Nigeria’s readiness to adopt globally acceptable cutting-edge technologies in the management of the nation’s security and defence architecture.
Speaking at a lecture titled, “Defence Management in the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Nigeria: Ministry of Defence in Perspective”, Magashi said the Federal Government has keyed into technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) to defeat all security threats in the country.
Recently, the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa urged the Nigerian Army to embrace and adopt technology for enhanced national security.
This was during a visit by the Chief of Defence Communications, Major-General Elvis Njoku, who said the new Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor directed defence institutions to collaborate with ICT related public institutions for the purpose of tackling contemporary security challenges.
He admitted that the use of technology is a force multiplier that will impact positively in Nigeria’s military operations and expressed confidence that the collaboration with NITDA would help them in achieving their mandate.
Majority of stakeholders believe that technology-driven surveillance and intelligence gathering costs less in terms of men and logistics. And Nigeria’s indigenous technology community could offer digital solutions to our nation’s security woes.
A case in point is the specialised Carbon Emission Detection (CED) tracker developed by an Ibadan, Oyo State-based indigenous AI technology firm, Robotic and Artificial Intelligence Nigeria (RAIN).
Founder of the firm, Olusola Ayoola said the CED tracker has the capacity to track and locate kidnappers, bandits and other criminal elements inside caves and forested areas.
Ayoola explained that the specialised tracker uses carbon emission sensors to detect carbon dioxide emitted by humans as they move from one location to another within any terrain. This he said makes it difficult for the kidnappers to hide their location.
With the potential to become a game-changer in the fight against kidnapping and banditry, the developer of the CED tracker is awaiting the approval of defence/security authorities to conduct a test and possible deploymen of the technology.
As it is, technology could ease the huge burden on security personnel, especially in the area of surveillance and intelligence gathering, while also freeing the essential manpower needed in combat operations.
To this end, the National Centre Artificial Intelligence and Robotics offers a genuine environment for indigenous AI technology talents and defence/security experts to undertake joint research into AI technologies for national security.
It is incumbent on the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, as well as Ministry of Defence, to create suitable platforms to foster trustworthy collaborations between the public and private technology community and civil society organisations in the country.
Government at all levels, private and other key stakeholders in the technology ecosystem are expected to respond more responsibly and effectively to the unique opportunities that Artificial Intelligence (AI) could bring to Nigeria’s security administration.
Certainly, the impact of Artificial Intelligence technology in national security can only be determined by the extent to which developers and security agencies are able to tap into its strengths and identify emerging options to limit likely vulnerabilities.
Inyene Ibanga is Managing Editor TechDigest writes from Wuye District, Abuja.l