Google Opens Artificial Intelligence Lab In Ghana To Enhance African Language Translations

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

Google has opened an artificial intelligence research laboratory in Accra, which will assist in enhancing Google Translate’s ability to capture the 13 African languages it supports more precisely.

This has been challenging without a local presence in Africa. The lab will assist in developing African AI solutions for sectors including healthcare, education and agriculture, according to ITNewsAfrica.

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The search engine giant’s free automatic translation service began adding African languages to its offering in 2013, starting with Somali, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and Zulu, according to TheGuardian.

There are now 13 African languages supported out of a total of 103 languages on the service, AfricaNews reports.

The most recently added languages from Africa include Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, South African language Xhosa, and Shona which is used in Zimbabwe.

They were added to Google Translate in 2016, with the service now catering for many of the most commonly spoken African languages, including Arabic and Swahili.

Google Launchpad Accelerator artificial intelligence
Machine learning experts will work together at Google’s artificial intelligence research lab in Ghana. Photo – Google

Without a proper research presence in Africa dedicated to enhancing the machine learning translations with human input, the African language translations were limited in terms of accuracy, according to Kwintissential.

It is unclear whether new African languages are planned for the service in the near future, but the artificial intelligence lab in Ghana now makes it easier to pursue additional languages.

Google says it will directly engage with researchers in African universities by providing grants to those interested in the various fields of AI and giving Ph.D. scholarships, CNN reports.

Expert machine learning researchers and software engineers will work together at the new AI research center.

They will focus on using artificial intelligence applications in areas that include healthcare, agriculture and education, according to Quartz.

Google spent $30 billion on artificial intelligence research in 2016, Forbes reported.

Accra is in good company, with Google’s other AI research centers based in Paris, Zurich, Tokyo, Beijing, Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, Boston, Tel Aviv, New York, and their San Francisco headquarters.