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How Google Is Using AI To Foster, Deliver Innovative Solutions

When Google launched its first African Artificial Intelligence (AI) research centre in Ghana in 2018, the aim according to Yossi Matias, Vice President, Engineering & Research Google,

was to foster the continent’s growing capabilities in the field, to deliver innovative solutions that will benefit both Africa and the world, working with local universities and research centres, as well as working with policymakers on the potential uses of AI in Africa.

Google AI Research Centre

The Google Research Centre in Accra, Ghana, houses the research labs that explore how AI can be used to solve problems affecting people both locally and globally, like mapping buildings in remote locations to provide better electricity. Essentially, Google boasts that its local researchers collaborate with research teams across the globe to work on AI-based tools to create change for communities worldwide, including in various countries across Africa.

An Immersive Experience 

With the comms team led by Dorothy Ooko, Communications & Public Affairs, Africa from Kenya; Communications & PR Manager, West Africa, Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade from Nigeria and

Siyavuya Madikane, Communications and Public Affairs Manager, South Africa, African journos drawn from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa recently visited the Google Research Africa space in Accra, Ghana for an immersive firsthand experience of the ongoing projects by the Google AI research teams in collaborations with partners across the region.

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In addition with home journalists from Ghana, the team explored AI products on-site with demos and case studies as was shown by Jason Hickey, who leads the Accra centre; Dr. Aisha Walcott-Bryant, Senior Staff Research Scientist;

Perry Nelson, Software Engineer, Google Ghana.

The Google team showcased the  significant AI work done so far including mapping Africa’s built environment using satellite imagery and machine learning, which allowed to quadruple the number of African buildings on Google Maps, bringing the number up past 250-million.

Also, they showed the Open Buildings Dataset, which is being used by various organisations such as the UN as well as other works where the team uses machine learning and Google’s unique capabilities to advance support of Sub-Saharan African languages, reduce the harms of locusts and adapt existing flood forecasting systems to respond to the special challenges of the continent.

Why AI for Africa?

In a virtual session with Matias, he opined that since innovative solutions to problems are developed for other climes and shipped to Africa, the Google Research team in Africa is focused on developing Al solutions to solve such problems right here in Africa but with a twist- the solutions can be applied globally.

On why Africa, Yossi said the continent has become a growing tech hub of which Google contributed immensely by training thousands of tech-inclined young Africans who have gone on to  found their own startups.

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Also, Hickey believes that AI is a foundational and transformational technology that will provide compelling and helpful benefits to people and society through its capacity to assist, complement, empower, and inspire people in almost every field of human endeavour, especially in Africa.

In the same vein, Walcott said while they are advocating for AI, they are also practicing responsible AI to create a future where technology benefits all users and society while working  alongside diverse collaborators, partners and external contributors to make AI more transparent, fair, and useful to diverse communities, as well as constantly improve the reliability and safety of the entire AI ecosystem.

Corroborating, Google’s Perry Nelson, while addressing concerns about responsibility, he said the company is working closely with various govern

Source: Thisday

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