Google on Wednesday announced plans to open Africa’s first Artificial Intelligence (AI) centre in Accra, Ghana later this year, noting that people across Africa do amazing things with the internet and technology for themselves, their communities and the world.
Interests in machine learning research across the continent have increased in recent times and this must have resulted in the decision of the tech giant to designate Africa for one of its AI research centres.
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 across the continent have shown an incredible and continuing growth of the computer science research community in Africa.
The choice of Ghana as the hub for the centre is however generating mixed reactions in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and the most populated country on the continent with many concerned that poor infrastructure, weak educational system, insecurity and difficulty in doing business may have cumulated in the neglect of the country.
Taiwo Kola Ogunlade, Google’s communications and public affairs manager, Anglophone West Africa told BusinessDay via Email that “Ghana has a strong set of local universities, as well as an office of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences”
“Although the center will be based in Ghana, we are quite focused more widely at Africa as a location where we want to invest in new areas of interest. There are many talented researchers working on AI in Africa now and it’s our goal to collaborate with them more closely through this new AI centre in Accra” Ogundele concluded.
Lucy James, associate consultant with Control Risks’ Africa team said “Ghana likely appealed to Google because of the quality of its education system and other feeder institutions”
“The search company is focused on drawing in local talent and there’s no shortage of that in Ghana,” James concluded.
Google has had various offices in Africa over the past 10 years and the company is excited to be a part of growing technology transformation on the continent.
According to Google, ultimately 10 million Africans will benefit from its many digital skills training program with 2 million people having already completed the course.
The company is supporting 100,000 developers and over 60 tech start-ups through Launchpad Accelerator Africa and is also adapting products to make it easy for people to discover the best of the internet, even on low-RAM smartphones or unstable network connections.
According to Jeff Dean, senior fellow, Google AI, “We’re committed to collaborating with local universities and research centers, as well as working with policy makers on the potential uses of AI in Africa”
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 is important that the world should be well represented in the development of AI.
The new AI center in Accra joins the list of other locations where Google is focusing on AI, including Paris, Zurich, Tokyo, Beijing, Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, Cambridge/Boston, Tel Aviv/Haifa, New York, and the company’s Mountain View/San Francisco headquarter