Google AI solves problems in Africa 

Date:

Sawubona had the opportunity to visit Google’s AI Research Centre in Accra, Ghana where AI engineers shed light on their solutions.

By: Nafisa Akabor

Google’s first and only artificial intelligence research centre in Africa is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) innovations to address everyday challenges experienced on the continent. 

Sawubona had the opportunity to visit Google’s AI Research Centre in Accra, Ghana where AI engineers shed light on their solutions. 

It included flood forecasting for regions that lack early disaster warnings, mapping buildings in remote areas to aid in disaster management like during an earthquake, and higher quality short-term weather forecasts that help farmers.  

Medical solutions include portable AI ultrasound devices instead of using large machines, speeding up tuberculosis screenings and identify potential patients for follow-up testing, and helping people with non-standard speech communicate on the Project Relate app. 

Jason Hickey, Co-Lead at Google Research Africa, says creating an innovative ecosystem that serves the continent includes finding talent, offering grants, collaborating on research projects, and offering PhD fellowships. 

The research centre focuses on sustainability, climate, AI, and machine learning. “Responsible AI is critical for how we develop these technologies,” says Hickey, as AI is a new technology.  

Project Relate’s partner in Ghana, the Talking Tipps Africa Foundation shared how it’s using the AI-driven app to enhance speech and language literacy. 

Founder Gifty Ayoka, a speech and language therapist, says the app supplements its services to bring access to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to a speech therapist. It helps those with autism, stroke patients or people who stammer, plus individuals with Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, and Parkinson’s disease. 

According to Ayoka, there are under 40 licenced SLTs servicing 32 million people in Ghana. “Because this is an app, training can be done online – you don’t have to be here. Since our colleagues have been trained on it, it has truly been a game changer for the people we have met,” she says. 

The Project Relate app is available on Android in select markets, and lets users record up to 500 phrases to understand and learn from their speech patterns. South Africa will be included in the app’s next rollout phase this year. 

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Getting there

SAA flies direct between Accra, Ghana, and Johannesburg three days a week.  

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