Google: Harnessing AI Potential In Africa

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Cisse, speaking during the Google AI Centre launch in Accra, Ghana.

Emerging technologies such as Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are technologies that are nurtured around the world in solving societal problems.
Africans should not be left behind in utilising these technologies to build solutions that would help their communities and beyond to improve their lives.
Google recognises that it is important for everyone to know that emerging technology is socially-beneficial and upholds the highest standards of scientific excellence.
In its bid to make Africans utilise these technologies, Google, penultimate Wednesday, unveiled its new AI Centre in Accra, Ghana.
The AI Centre which Google announced last year now has a team working on building AI-powered solutions to real-world problems, including helping communities in Africa and beyond to improve their lives.
AI is a powerful, multi-purpose technology with the potential to transform industrial and societal processes alike.
Governments have an important role to play in collaboration with industry and other stakeholders to ensure good outcome.
It should be noted that Google uses ML and AI in all its products; and AI and ML are used every day by people across the world, many of whom don’t even realise they are using it.
Machine Learning is used for everything from filtering out the spam in your email to powering the Google Assistant on your smart speaker.
From taking the perfect low-light photos on the Pixel 3 to helping the world speak the same language through Google Translate.
Google’s AI Centre was opened in Ghana in order to build technology that benefits people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints.
The researchers of Google AI Centre in Accra brought a fresh perspective and expertise to build new technologies in Africa that could contribute positively to life here, as well as around the globe.
Google AI Accra forms part of the company’s structured efforts to explore and integrate more diverse experiences/learnings beyond present-day centres of innovation.
AI by Africa, for the world, helps to highlight the crucial role that the new centre will be playing in the vision of using AI to solve problems for everyone in every part of the world.
Working with partners from such diverse fields as medicine, transportation, environmental groups and small businesses can help to evolve AI and ML tools to meet real-world challenges.
This is why Google shares its ML tools, so that organisations outside Google can benefit.
Google’s AI for social good programme will include projects such as: flood prediction, earthquake aftershocks and environmental protection.
For healthcare and biology, algorithm is developed to predict heart attacks and strokes simply from images of the retina  with no needle or blood draw required.
Google researchers had helped doctors to detect the spread of breast cancer tumours as doctors and the Machine Learning system are better working together.
The Head of Google AI Accra, Mr Moustapha Cisse, said operations at the AI Centre were based on Google’s AI principles that ensure that things done will benefit the people, not violate their rights and done in a responsible way.
“At Google AI, we are conducting research that advances the state-of-the-art in the field, applying AI to products and developing tools to ensure that everyone can access AI.
“AI is no longer science fiction but now a practical software engineering tool that is proving crucial to advancing science and tackling some of the biggest global challenges as well as helping millions of people in their everyday lives.
“It can help people focus on what is relevant and open up new ways to solve problems in almost every imaginable field.
“Examples include AI helping pathologists to spot cancer cells on sides, advising farmers on how to address problems with their crops and allowing manufacturers to better predict equipment breakdown.
“It helps in making predictions in less than one second for farmers and their yields, ‘’ he said.
Cisse said that ultimately, AI’s biggest impact would come when everyone could access it.
He also said that Google was committed to publishing their research participation in academic conferences and sharing tools and datasets.
He said that AI was for everyone, listing some of the things it could be used for as; creating more efficient dairy farms, predicting cargo space on flights and routing customers’ helpline calls.
Cisse mentioned spotting anomalies on a food production line, solving the youth unemployment challenges, better flight route predictions and others.
He said that alongside the tremendous opportunities AI offers, there are new challenges like society’s thinking about fairness, building inclusive experiences and equipping the workforce for jobs of the future.
The Google official said that AI’s influence on the world would be determined by the choice people made in embracing it, the guidance, boundaries set for its application by government and international bodies.
He noted that Google was committed to playing a role in helping societies everywhere to realise the benefits of AI, while minimising risks in accordance with society’s cultural norms and needs.
Cisse said that AI at Google was guided by seven principles: to be socially beneficial, avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias, be built and tested on safety, be accountable to people and incorporate privacy design principles
He listed others as: upholding high standards of scientific excellence and be readily available for users that are in accord with the principles.
A research scientist, Mr Yann Dauphin, said that AI would help to break down the barriers of language.
He also said that, in finding a way out and to do things better, there is need for data of languages.
“Google researchers are experts in natural language technologies and will build systems that learn to understand and use language in context.
“The focus areas include syntax, discourse, conversation, multilingual modeling, sentiment analysis, question answering and summarisation, ’’ Dauphin said.
A software engineer, Nyalleng Moorosi, said that for AI to work well for town planning, there is the need to understand exactly what the people need.
She said that understanding where the people live and their environment would enable one to know what they want.
Mr Mohammad Nassar, also a software engineer, said that exposing the computer to a number of examples would enable the people to learn about the facts and thus make AI very effective.
AI is helping Google to organise the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful in exciting new ways, solving problems for its users, customers and the world.
If properly harnessed, AI can deliver great benefits for economies and societies and support decision-making which is fairer, safer and more inclusive and informed.
As AI technology evolves, it is expected that policy stakeholders and the global community as a whole will continue to learn more.
Ogbolu writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Chiazo Ogbolu