By Sunday Ani

A senior software engineer, and cloud engineering educator, Emmanuel Idowu, has said that prompt engineering could be used to address some local challenges and develop solutions relevant to Nigerian communities, particularly in the areas of education, health, agriculture, finance and other areas.

A senior executive at three other tech organizations, apart from the one he co-founded, he started his tech journey as a horticultural student, creating his first Android app, before he transitioned into tech fully, where he currently works in various domains, such as PropTech, AgricTech, EduTech, and MobilityTech.

In this interview, he looked at what prompt engineering is all about, what intending practitioners require to excel in it, what the Nigerian society stands to gain from it and the prospects therein.

What is prompt engineering?

A prompt is a body of text typically written in English language or other natural language that instructs an AI model on what to do or produce. For instance, an AI model may be instructed to create a picture, summarize a text, or compose poetry. Creating, Crafting, enhancing, and optimizing prompts is the process of prompt engineering, which aims to maximize the output of the AI model.

Can someone with limited computer literacy proficiency participate in this field?

Yes, but we also need to be aware that with the proper amount of community support, enthusiasm, and hard work, we can overcome any obstacle we may encounter. It’s critical to keep in mind that learning requires curiosity and a proactive attitude.

Does a career in prompt engineering require expensive technology or resources not readily available in Nigeria?

Pursuing a career in prompt engineering can be done with basic technology and free tools. Online learning and remote work make it possible to learn and work from anywhere. Local tech communities can help with guidance and feedback.

Nigerians like you have achieved success in this field by using online resources and joining the local communities; what are the facts and myths of the Large Language Model (LLM)?

Imagine large language models like GPT-3, as super-smart robots that are really good with words. These robots have read tons of books, websites, and stuff on the internet to learn how people talk and write. They can do cool things like understanding what you’re saying, finishing your sentences, and even helping you with your homework. But, here’s the catch – these robots don’t truly understand things as humans do. They’re like super-advanced chatbots. They might give really good-sounding answers, but they don’t really “get” what they’re saying. Also, they might sometimes say things that sound right, but are actually a bit off, like a friend who’s really good at guessing but not always spot-on.

People are still figuring out how to make sure these robots don’t accidentally say silly or wrong things, and it’s important to use them responsibly, knowing that they’re not perfect. So, they’re amazing helpers, but they’re not quite as smart as they might seem.

How can prompt engineering be used to address local challenges and develop solutions relevant to Nigerian communities?

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Yes, of course. It can be used in areas such as education, health, agriculture, and finance. Let me offer some real life examples here. Prompt engineers can create educational content, such as summaries, quizzes, and explanations, for students and teachers. In the field of medicine, prompt engineers can use their skills to read and analyse medical reports, CT scans and X-ray images, thereby reducing diagnosing time; suggest possible treatment schemes, and prevention advice. I have worked with a startup in Ghana doing this already. Prompt engineering can also be used to create agricultural content, such as crop recommendations, pest control, and market analysis, for farmers and traders.

What are the potential ethical concerns surrounding using AI and prompt engineering in a developing country like Nigeria?

First of all, biased training data could lead AI systems to make erroneous conclusions that disproportionately and negatively impact some societal groups. Secondly, if accessibility to and the benefits of AI technology are not spread equitably, there’s a chance that already-existing disparities may be amplified. Thirdly, the processing and storing of enormous volumes of private information by AI systems raises privacy concerns, necessitating strong security measures to keep people protected. Fourthly, it may be difficult for AI decision-making to be transparent and accountable, which raises concerns about who is ultimately accountable for the results of AI systems. Finally, in order to prevent imposing unsuitable or biased AI models that might not be in line with regional beliefs and customs, cultural sensitivity is essential. For AI technology to be used responsibly and ethically in poor nations like Nigeria, these issues must be addressed.

Can prompt engineering tools be adapted to local languages and dialects like Pidgin English?

It is possible to modify prompt engineering tools to support indigenous languages and dialects, such as Yoruba or Pidgin English. To accommodate many languages and dialects, they could use processes like language identification, translation, or modification. Prompt engineering tools may be made to comprehend and produce writings in an individual’s native tongue and context by using these techniques.

What skills and expertise are essential for individuals pursuing a career in prompt engineering?

Prompt engineers must possess an excellent basis in information technology, programming knowledge, linguistic proficiency, critical thinking, and collaborative and interpersonal abilities. These abilities enable them to provide precise and succinct prompts, evaluate and maximize the model’s output, and collaborate with a variety of stakeholders and resources.

How competitive is the global market for prompt engineers, and will Nigerians face disadvantages?

As of August 2023, the average yearly compensation for a prompt engineer in the United States is $129,500, according to ZipRecruiter. This shows that the field is a very competitive one as more and more global organisations are looking for qualified engineers to generate effective prompts and output. If you are trained to become the very best at prompt engineering, the disadvantages you will face will be minimal, and most time, will be out of your control, for example prejudice and discrimination. But this should not stop you.

What challenges can Nigerians expect in the field of prompt engineering in 2024?

The field of prompt engineering presents abundant opportunities for professionals to contribute to cutting-edge AI projects and shape the future of human-AI interactions. However, challenges such as staying abreast of rapid technological advancements and addressing ethical considerations in AI development are inherent to this career path.

What are the essential skills and expertise needed by individuals pursuing careers in prompt engineering?

Individuals venturing into prompt engineering need a strong foundation in natural language understanding, machine learning, and data analysis. Proficiency in programming languages, such as Python, and a deep understanding of linguistic nuances are also crucial. Moreover, effective communication and problem-solving skills are imperative because prompt engineers must navigate complex language structures and diverse contexts.