Google has opened its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) center in Africa in Ghana's capital city, Accra. Google announced its intention to launch the center last year.
“We’ll bring together top machine learning researchers and engineers in this new center dedicated to AI research and its applications,” the blog explaining the launch said.
The center will host engineers and researchers together to work on AI-dedicated projects. Google says it will partner with local universities and institutions as well as policy-makers to develop AI in Africa.
"Keep us honest" AI committee disbanded
Last week, Google announced it was dissolving its AI ethics committee just a week after it was announced. The tech giant created the committee made up of philosophers, business leaders, and engineers to provide guidance on AI-related projects and keep the company “honest.”
The committee was cut short after Google employees and the public vocally objected to the appointed to the board of Kay Cole James. James is the president of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation. An organization that has been accused of spreading misinformation about climate change and anti-LGBT rhetoric.
Google dedicated to the African continent
Google is moving to position itself as an “AI first” company. The tech giant is opening AI research centers all over the world including Tokyo, Zurich, New York, and Paris.
Google has had a long presence in Africa. In addition to having several offices scattered across the continent, it has a well established digital training skills program that the company says will ultimately assist more than 10 million Africans in gaining new skills.
Opening access to WiFi
The course has already had 2 million graduates. An additional 100,000 developers and over 60 tech startups through gain experience and skills through the Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa program.
Google estimates that 35 percent of Africans have access to the web, compared to 48 percent in Asia, 67 in Latin America, 85 in Europe and 95 in North America. Many internet users in Africa don’t have Wi-Fi in their homes; instead, rely on public WiFi hotspots to access the web for education and socializing. Google is increasing and stabilizing these networks with the Google Station project.
The project sees Google team up with 21st Century, one of the largest fiber network providers in Nigeria to create a stable network across Africa. In addition to providing internet access, Google is also working on adapting internet technologies for low-RAM smartphones and unstable network connections. One method of achieving this aim is through TensorFlow.
Applied AI solves real problems
TensorFlow is an open source machine learning library, that lets companies, nonprofits, researchers and developers create AI-powered apps that help communities and people overcome problems. Developers can use the library to build AI-powered apps and software that deal with real challenges.
One well-publicized use of TensorFlow is the creation of an app that lets farmers upload pictures of their crops and get advice back about the health of their plants and ways to increase productivity.