Google has announced plans to open an artificial intelligence research centre in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
It will be the first of the search giant’s AI centres to be based in Africa, bringing together machine learning experts and engineers on projects dedicated to the technology and its many applications.
In a company blog post, senior fellow at Google AI, Jeff Dean, and Moustapha Cisse, research scientist and head of the new centre in Accra, outlined how Africa is primed for investment in emerging technologies.
“In recent years we’ve witnessed an increasing interest in machine learning research across the continent,” they wrote. “Events like Data Science Africa 2017 in Tanzania, the 2017 Deep Learning Indaba event in South Africa, and follow-on IndabaX events in 2018 in multiple countries, have shown an exciting and continuing growth of the computer science research community in Africa.”
Harnessing local talent
By 2034, it’s predicted that Africa will have the world’s largest working-age population: around 1.1 billion people. The latest move to explore AI in Ghana represents another step towards nurturing digital skills on the continent and making the most of its enormous potential and talent.
Google’s first offices on the continent opened ten years ago. Since the company’s arrival, the aim has been to put ten million people through Google’s digital skills training programme. Two million have already completed the course.
Through Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa, the company supports 100,000 developers and more than 60 technology startups across the continent. Google has also ploughed resources into adapting its products – including Maps, YouTube and Google Search – for Africa’s mobile network infrastructure. Low-memory smartphones and people with unstable network connections are benefiting from more streamlined and transparent features.
Aside from that, the move to Ghana is also proof that Google has an appreciation for the quality of graduates coming out of the country’s universities. Accra now joins cities such as Tokyo, Paris, and New York in playing host to a Google AI research centre.
Dean and Cisse suggested that the choice of Accra was also a necessary way to democratise new AI applications. They wrote that “AI has great potential to positively impact the world, and more so if the world is well represented in the development of new AI technologies.
“So it makes sense to us that the world should be well represented in the development of AI. Our new AI centre in Accra joins the list of other locations around the world where we focus on AI.”
Internet of Business says
News of Google’s ongoing work and new investment in Africa is welcome in a technology sector that is often too Western- or Asia-centric.
Alongside the many local innovations that are coming out of all parts of Africa as it seeks to develop new communications infrastructures and hothouse digital talent, a number of major tech companies are investing in the continent, including Microsoft, IBM, Salesforce.com, and Facebook, among others – coupled with China’s huge ongoing investment in the region.
Ghana is positioning itself as a new technology hotspot within the continent, with startups such as Farmerline, Agrocenta, iSpace Foundation – which runs a technology hub in the country – Asoriba, fintech company expressPay, OMGVoice, TressApp, and StoreFoundry among the many local ventures emerging in recent years.
Meanwhile, France has launched a $76 million fund to support startups in Africa.