Google has opened an Artificial intelligence (AI) research laboratory in Accra, Ghana – the first of its kind on African soil.

The new lab will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop solutions in healthcare, education and agriculture and according Moustapha Cisse, who will head the centre says Artificial Intelligence could improve lives and reduce inequalities.

“Africa has many challenges where the use of AI could be beneficial, sometimes even more than in other places,” Cisse, who is Google’s head of AI Accra.

Building expertise

In January, Cisse wrote on this blog: “If AI is to improve lives and reduce inequalities, we must build expertise beyond the present-day centers of innovation… that will require widening of the locations where AI is done. The vast majority of experts are in North America, Europe and Asia. Africa, in particular, is barely represented.

Such lack of diversity can entrench unintended algorithmic biases and build discrimination into AI products. And that’s not the only gap. Fewer African AI researchers and engineers means fewer opportunities to use AI to improve the lives of Africans. The research community is also missing out on talented individuals simply because they have not received the right education.”

“I am happy to be returning to Africa as part of a chance to change that,” said Cisse said then.

He wrote further: “We need more efforts to overcome these barriers and to ensure that the benefits of AI arrive globally…The human resources are there. Africa is home to the youngest and fastest-growing population on earth… The oft-overlooked continent has much to give and to get from AI.

Education and opportunities

Cisse, a Senegalese expert in the field, said Google is also working with universities and start-ups in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa to enhance AI development and he hopes specialist engineers and AI researchers will 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.”

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