Google's AI Initiatives in Africa: 6 Ways Technology is Driving Positive Change

Discover how Google's AI Research Center in Ghana is making a difference in Africa and beyond with innovative projects.

Google's AI Research Center in Accra, Ghana, has been at the forefront of driving AI innovation in Africa since its establishment in 2018. With a mission to address pressing challenges faced by millions of people globally, the center collaborates with research teams worldwide, including various countries across Africa. Through groundbreaking projects, Google is leveraging artificial intelligence to empower communities and foster positive change. In this article, we explore six impactful AI initiatives undertaken by Google in Africa and their potential to transform lives.

1. Mapping Buildings:

Accurately mapping buildings in remote locations can be a daunting task. To address this, Google's Accra research center launched the Open Buildings dataset project, combining AI and satellite imagery to pinpoint building locations. This initiative enables governments and nonprofit organizations to better understand the needs of residents and offer assistance. For example, in Uganda, Sunbird AI utilizes the dataset to collaborate with the Ministry of Energy in Lamwo district, studying electrification needs and prioritizing electricity access in crucial areas like commercial centers. The Open Buildings dataset continues to expand, benefiting communities across Africa and Southeast Asia.

2. Forecasting Floods:

Inadequate early warning systems for floods pose a significant challenge in many least-developed countries, including West and Central Africa. Google's Flood Forecasting Initiative employs AI models to predict riverine floods in 23 African countries and 80 countries globally. By providing detailed inundation maps and forecasts up to seven days in advance, the Flood Hub platform equips residents and governments with crucial information for preparation and potential evacuation, ultimately saving lives and minimizing damage.

3. Predicting Locusts:

Locust infestations pose a severe threat to food crops and agricultural livelihoods. Collaborating with InstaDeep and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Google's AI Center in Ghana is developing a model to forecast locust breeding grounds. By leveraging historical data from FAO and environmental variables like rainfall and temperature, this initiative aims to enable farmers to implement timely control measures and mitigate the impact of locust outbreaks on food security.

4. Improving Maternal Health Outcomes with Ultrasound:

Ultrasounds play a crucial role in identifying potential complications during pregnancy. Google has been working on AI models that can analyze ultrasound images and provide essential information to healthcare workers. In partnership with Jacaranda Health in Kenya, Google focuses on enhancing ultrasound AI technology using handheld devices that offer portability and affordability. This innovation allows healthcare providers, even those without extensive training, to acquire and interpret ultrasound images efficiently, leading to better maternal health outcomes.

5. Empowering Non-Standard Speech Communication:

Project Relate, an Android app developed by Google, harnesses AI research to facilitate communication for individuals with non-standard speech. By recording phrases, users receive personalized speech recognition models that transcribe speech into text, repeat speech through synthesized voices, and engage Google Assistant for various tasks. Currently available for user testing in Ghana, Project Relate empowers people with non-standard speech to express themselves, interact with technology, and navigate daily tasks effectively.

6. Advancing Child Literacy with Read Along:

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated global literacy challenges, with a significant proportion of 10-year-olds struggling to read and comprehend basic stories. Google's AI-based reading tutor app and website, Read Along, aims to address this issue. Through its interactive features, including an in-app reading buddy named Diya, Read Along supports children while reading aloud, providing assistance and rewards. Over 30 million children worldwide have engaged with Read Along, reading more than 120 million stories. The positive impact extends beyond the children themselves, positively influencing their families and fostering a love for reading.


Google's AI initiatives in Africa, particularly through its AI Research Center in Accra, Ghana, are driving significant positive change across various sectors. From mapping buildings and forecasting floods to addressing locust infestations, improving maternal health outcomes, enabling communication for non-standard speech, and advancing child literacy, Google's projects are transforming lives and empowering communities. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, Google is fostering innovation and creating sustainable solutions to pressing challenges faced by millions in Africa and beyond.

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