Google has opened its first African laboratory of artificial intelligence in Ghana

When we think about Artificial Intelligence, we probably think of scenes from sci-fi movies, but in reality, this applies to everyday life, virtual assistants to linguistic translation on Google, explains John Quinn, researcher in artificial intelligence.

Google now wants to position itself as an "IA First" company and with research centers around the world, including Tokyo, Zurich, New York and Paris.

And last week, the technology company opened its first center in Africa in Accra, the capital of Ghana.

Benefits of IA

Artificial intelligence can be applied in sectors such as agriculture, health and education. Moustapha Cisse, a researcher at the helm of Google's efforts in artificial intelligence in Africa, says his team's goal is to provide developers with the research needed to create products that can solve the problems that Africa is facing today.

Moustapha Cisse, head of the Africa team at Google AI.

"Most of what we do in our research centers at Google and not just in Accra, we publish it with open source code, so that everyone can use it to build all kinds of things," he said. he declared.

Cisse mentioned the application used by the Tanzanian farmer to diagnose cassava disease as an example of the type of product on which her team plans to collaborate with relevant institutes in various sectors.

"A team from the University of Pennsylvania and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture are using TensorFlow to create new models of artificial intelligence deployed on phones to diagnose crop diseases.

"This has not been done by us, but by people who use the tools we have built.

"When we do science, the results of our research, generally and hopefully, because of good quality, go much further than expected and we hope to see the same thing happen here in Accra and Africa," he said. Cisse.

Cisse, an expert from Senegal, explains that the center collaborates directly with researchers from African universities by awarding grants to those who are interested in various fields of AI and offering a PhD. Scholarships.

He added that Google also supports graduate programs in machine learning at the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences in South Africa.

Cisse leads a team of nine other people including researchers and software engineers. Team members come from nine different countries, including Lesotho, Uganda and Ireland.

Cisse believes it is important for Africans to be at the forefront of finding solutions to the problems of their continent.

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The center will also focus on improving the ability of Google Translate to more accurately capture African languages, Cisse stating that a continent of over 2,000 dialects deserves to be better served.

Google joins Facebook and other technology companies to launch projects in Africa with a keen eye on the continent's growing youth population.

Algorithmic bias

Despite this, Silicon Valley companies are still struggling with diversity. A recent CNNBusiness report shows that many employees want a real change in their business after years spent on the problem.

Nyalleng Moorosi, a computer engineer at the center, whose work focuses on the creation of AI, operates fundamentally based on the data that is introduced. It sometimes has a real bias, which is neither inclusive nor representative of all end users. more diversified.

Nyalleng Moorosi, Software Engineer at Google AI
Shortly after its launch in 2015, Google Photos tagged images of blacks as "gorillas" drawing criticism and leaving society struggling to solve the problem.

Moorosi, a native of Lesotho and holds a bachelor's degree from a liberal arts college, says his background allows him to see the problem as a human problem that needs to be solved by diversifying the samples used to data collection.

She added that more Africans would be included in the data collection to provide an accurate representation of users.

"When you build something, you think it will only work for the world you know and your neighborhood, and you forget that it can be so great that it's deployed in foreign quarters," Moorosi said.

"The best way to do this is to use various teams working on these algorithms so that we can go somewhere."

Privacy issues

Artificial intelligence works because a lot of personal data is introduced, which raises privacy issues with the use of data by someone like Google.

According to Cisse, the principles of AI in artificial intelligence are aimed at creating a climate of trust between the creators of the technology and the end users. This technology must be aligned with the values ​​of society.

"We need to build a fair algorithm, respectful of the user's privacy and transparent," he said.

The center is now operational after a few months late, Google's bet on AI having a transformative effect in Africa will now be put to the test.

The continent is waiting.

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