Nigeria’s dysfunctional public utilities


Water no dey, light no dey…artificial intelligence nko, abeg no make me laugh

Artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies (ET) are poised to transform modern societies in profound ways. As with electricity in the last century, AI is an enabling technology that will animate everyday products and communications, endowing everything from cars to cameras with the ability to interact with the world around them, and with each other. These developments are just the beginning, and as AI/ET matures, it will have sweeping impacts on our work, security, politics, and very our lives. 

As AI continues to influence and shape existing industries and allows new ones to take root, its macro-level impact, particularly in the realm of economics, will become more and more apparent. Control over the research and development of AI will become increasingly vital, and the winners of this upcoming AI-defined era in human history will be the countries and companies that can create the most powerful algorithms, assemble the most talent, collect the most data, and marshal the most computing power. This is the next great technology race of our generation and the stakes are high…

In the American society, for example, the belief is that if she’s to embrace the full range of social and political changes that these technologies will introduce, then it is the education and training they provide their youth and workers that will fuel the engines of future AI, and therefore geopolitical success.

AI/ET promise to usher in a bold new era of human history, one where the machines we create will oftentimes be smarter, faster, and more powerful than those who created them. This reality has profound implications for the field of education and introduces complex ethical, legal, and societal implications that academics, policy makers, and average citizens alike will need to contend with as every aspect of society reshapes around them.

If a nation as great as the United States risks strategic inferiority if it does not embrace a full reconsideration of education in the digital environment, to include a comprehensive strategy for reimagining our education system at the national level, how much of a Nigeria still battling the electricity age.

Today, we are not training our young leaders with the tools required to be successful in the digital age, and that has deeply troubling implications for the future of our society.

Now after all the ‘turanchi’ above, what am I talking about? Public utilities, AI/ET or…forgive me and let us share thoughts.

Last week, my bosom family friend’s son had a domestic accident; the lad broke a thighbone. He was rushed to the Jos University Teaching Hospital, JUTH, in pains. It took several hours before we could do a scan, after one failed attempt we finally got a better copy. And mind you, we were “big men”. Don’t ask what happens to the “small people”…and I am not writing this because of him. I love J, I love Mos, and I love Deb, but trust me I love Nigeria more, and want to see it work.

And here we were, the entire emergency was filled with heartlessness on ratio 4:1. The staff had no smiles, little empathy and the whole ambience was zero. Opening a card was ROCKET SCIENCE, and even at the point of death, no card no treatment, nothing showed emerging technologies, from where one parked to the building itself, had a look that was capable of making even the healthiest of persons sick. For a hospital, a teaching hospital that should mirror at least 1999, if it could not be 2k compliant, it simply looked like a very good big 1978 hospital.

I watched as a patient was given a list of drugs, I mean literally the list was thrown at him, a PATIENT! And he was just getting a little attention after over five hours, an emergency and no sense of urgency. Of the two drugs prescribed by the arrogant doctor, the hospital pharmacy did not have one.

The complex of buildings could do with any form of AI but practically all the locations and wards had no computers, no CCTV cameras, and this hospital is less than 20 years, no central heating and it’s Jos. Sitting on an expansive land, like most of our public utilities we like big but largely empty in substance and service.

Maybe my complaints are why the doctors and nurses and all the work paraphernalia go on strike but truth is Nigeria’s public utilities are dead. Our public schools dead, public hospitals barely breathing, seen the ‘bottom utilities’ in our airports, either no water sometimes or it’s just a messed up sight. Lights would go off hours on end at the airports, the Aso Rock seat of power will be indebted to the energy supply company and they in turn owe the gas supply company.

I do not want to go into the lackadaisical nurses that work so hard doing nothing really, because it would be disservice to those that actually give in their 110 per cent in such circumstances. A lot of the doctors are not at their A-Game, while a handful of them, trust me, are the best not only Nigeria has to offer but can compete at any level, but the facilities are non-existent, equipment are awol, and we are in the age of AI/ET, when all and everything has a touch of ‘let me check the system’.

Our candidates are talking infrastructure, none really is understanding and talking public utilities, least of all, none really understands the place of emerging technologies in a world that is fast spinning.

So, elections are in some six days; I ask while reflecting where we are, who you will vote for. Need I remind us that we backward in a moving forward world? We are stuck between a lackluster four years of a former dictator and an alleged kleptomaniac of international repute. As citizens, we are responsible to our God, second to our conscience and third to the laws of Nigeria, fourth to the court of public opinion in Nigeria and finally international law and the rest of us. The choice we take will determine if we are taking any AI steps or if our public utilities journey is still far. Only time will tell.

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