Africa isn’t known as a tech hub, but the continent’s embrace of AI is putting it in the spotlight.
What’s happening: African researchers lately have turned to AI to tackle everything from crop failure to bureaucratic red tape. A story in MIT Technology Review details how global AI companies are fostering homegrown talent to take on local challenges:
- Google AI's lab in Accra, Ghana, is expanding the company’s Translate service to accommodate Africa’s roughly 2,000 spoken languages.
- Google researchers also developed an AI-powered smartphone app to help farmers in rural Tanzania diagnose diseased crops.
- IBM Research in Johannesburg, South Africa, trained a model to label hospital pathology reports, cutting the time it took to process data on cancer rates.
- The International Conference on Learning Representations will host its 2020 conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Behind the news: Africa's AI community draws on local roots. Data Science Africa began in 2013 as a hub for machine learning experts across the continent to connect, share data, and encourage research. Another group, Deep Learning Indaba, hosts annual TED-like conferences to spread the growth.
Why it matters: Africa holds 54 countries and more than a billion inhabitants with unique challenges. Homegrown experts with local knowledge seem more likely than outsiders to apply AI effectively to these issues. In any case, AI needs talent centers worldwide to achieve its promise.
We’re thinking: We love Silicon Valley, but we're also rooting for the Great Rift Valley.