Google Research enhances its AI growth in Africa
When we launched our first African AI research centre in Ghana in 2018, we did so with the aim of fostering 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.
Since its launch, the team at the Accra-based Research Centre has engaged in significant AI work, 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. The team also released the Open Buildings Dataset last July - which being used by various organisations such as the UN. In other works, the team uses machine learning and Google's unique capabilities to advance support of Sub-Saharan African languages, reduce the harms of locusts, adapt our existing flood forecasting systems to respond to the special challenges of the continent, and more.
At our Google for Africa event last October, our CEO, Sundar Pichai, announced a plan to invest $1 billion over the next five years to support Africa's digital transformation. As a continuation of that commitment, last month we announced a new product development center in Africa, to be located in Nairobi. The product development center will help to create products and services for people in Africa and the world.
We are also working on applying Google Translate to more languages in Africa. Earlier this month, Google announced it is adding 24 new languages to Google Translate, 10 of which are African languages. This will help more people on the continent access more of the internet and use it to its full potential.
Expanding our commitment
Last week, we made several exciting announcements aimed at expanding our commitments. We inaugurated our new office in Ghana, which will allow us to grow our in-country team. We are accelerating our growth in Accra and are expanding our Research AI residency program, which is designed to jump start research careers. We also underlined our commitment to growing our presence in the ecosystem through making our site a community hub for in-person engagements with the community. Last week we hosted our first community workshop in the field of NLP and African languages and a panel with Ghanaian entrepreneurs working on sustainable development goals.
In addition to the new office, we’ve also made several investments aimed at growing research talent in Africa. We announced Generation Google Scholarships in 2022 for female computer science students and students in related technical fields at universities in Africa and last week we hosted young students as part of our global Mind the Gap program of encouraging students towards science and technology.
Back in 2018, I visited Rwanda for the launch of the African Master’s in Machine Intelligence (AMMI) program at the African Institute for Maths and Sciences (AIMS), with support from Google as one of the founding partners. AMMI is a one-year program which has successfully been run in Rwanda, Senegal and Ghana, and with graduates taking on continued graduate studies or taking positions in the industry, including at our Research Center in Accra. We are happy to continue our funding support.
Last week we announced signing the first Master Sponsored Research Agreements in Africa, with Kwame Nkrumah University in Ghana (KNUST) and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Ghana (AIMS) to enable research and leadership sponsored programs developing young tech-talent in Africa. I also got to visit the AIMS Ghana Campus as well as University of Ghana, meeting faculty and students, where once again I was reminded of the great talent and potential that exists in Africa.
In the decade-plus that Google has had a presence in Africa, we’ve witnessed first-hand the incredible potential for what people can do with the internet and technology. AI is undoubtedly the next frontier of that relationship and we’re excited to play an ongoing role in its African growth journey.
Posted by Yossi Matias, Vice President, Engineering & Research