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Google Builds AI Lab in Ghana

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by Oyinlola Isiaka on July 17, 2018

“Google is just a giant scientific research company that happens to make money. This was my first impression when I visited their offices in Mountain View for the first time,” says Victor Asemota, an African tech pioneer.

Google has built a reputation for pushing the boundaries of human knowledge through its immense research and discovery. It is through Google’s initiatives and strategies that it has created a vast variety of technology platforms and has found itself at the center of data information and collection.

Recently, Google declared that it had put artificial intelligence as number one on its agenda. This decision will ultimately alter the technology sector and they way humans live today. Interestingly, Google has decided to tackle artificial intelligence in Africa as well. The company recently announced that it will be building a Google Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Africa. A lab that wil be run by an African native, Moustapha Cisse.

Moustapha Cisse is a Senegal national and was appointed to run as the Lead of the new Google Artificial Intelligence Research Lab to be built in Accra, Ghana. This will be the first Google lab in Africa.

According to CNN, initial talks for the future of AI in Africa began at the 2010 annual GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. At this conference, the CEO and Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, highlighted the low level of Android activations in Africa, posing the question “Why is Africa dark?”

This led to the conclusion that Google had very little activity and operations in Africa, in regards to the continent’s technology sector. For Google had already been involved in strengthening educational institutions by providing infrastructure and software to build future technology communities.

Eric Schmidt went on to explain that the Google expansion to Africa has always been in the works, but the company was simply in search of the best solution. He explained that Google had to take into consideration the continent’s issues with infrastructure and connectivity. Thus, Google has decided to expand to Africa through massive infrastructure projects, digital skills training and investments into the African startup ecosystem.

However, the question still remains “Why Ghana?”

Simply, Google believes Ghana has a robust network of academic institutions and infrastructures. Also, Ghana is becoming a melting pot for education in the sub-regions. The relative stability of the country and higher standards of its institutions such as the Ashesi University has brought m0re promise to Ghana. All these factors provide Ghana with the tools to be an effective AI hub. Especially since some of the best AI talent in the world originated from Africa like, Omoju Miller, who has a Ph.D. in Cognition and Study and works at GitHub.

Miller has explained, “The African context is very different from Mountain View or Zurich. The kinds of innovation Africa needs is similar to the innovative practices we have seen coming out of China, companies like Alibaba and Ant financial. These are companies that are responsible for inventing entire markets that serve the world. That is the kind of innovative thinking we need in Africa. Google AI can play a role in helping us get there.”

It is through the African context, artificial intelligence and machine learning that Google can bring potential new solution and open up new global markets for Africa. 

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