Google recently opened an artificial intelligence research laboratory in Accra, Ghana. The first of its kind in Africa, researchers say it will take on challenges across the continent. The United States technology giant said the Ghanaian lab would address economic, political and environmental issues.
Google’s head of AI Accra, Moustapha Cisse said,
“Africa has many challenges where the use of AI could be beneficial, sometimes even more than in other places.”
Similar research centres have already opened in cities around the world including Tokyo, Zurich, New York and Paris. The new lab would use AI to develop solutions in healthcare, education and agriculture. It would help to diagnose certain types of crop disease.
Google is working with universities and start-ups in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa to enhance AI development regionally. Cisse hopes specialist engineers and AI researchers would collaborate with local organisations and policymakers.
“We just need to ensure that the right education and opportunities are in place. That is why Google is sponsoring a lot of these young people for their degrees… to help develop a new generation of AI developers.”
Other tech companies, including Facebook, have launched initiatives in Africa. Demographics are a key factor behind the drive.
Africa’s population is an estimated 1.2 billion, 60 per cent of whom are under the age of 24. By 2050, the UN estimates the population will double to 2.4 billion. As online social networks expand, that presents a huge market for US tech giants to tap into.
Daniel Ives, a technology researcher at GBH Insights in New York, said to AFP,
“There’s a clear opportunity for companies like Facebook and Google to really go in and put a pole in the sand. If you look at Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, where is a lot of that growth coming from? It’s international.”