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Google opens Artificial Intelligence research lab in Ghana



On Wednesday morning at the Marriott Hotel, Google had a press briefing with the members of the press to officially open its Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Centre. The briefing also included discussions about its overall AI initiatives and they also share some information about their CSquared Fibre project.

Google recently made headlines when they initially announced that they would be opening their first AI centre in Africa and it would be based in Accra, Ghana. The press briefing was to shed more light and information of the centre as well as give the press a personal tour of the center.

Moustapha Cisse, the head of the AI Research centre in Ghana, gave a brief introduction of the centre and its mission before officially introducing the Google Ghana AI research team which is made up of a group of diverse individuals from different backgrounds and countries.

There was a panel discussion where the panelists talked about Machine Learning where they tried to demystify the concept. The panel included members from the AI Team including Jorg Doku (Software Engineer), Sara Hooker (Google Brain Researcher) and Mohammed Nassar (Software Engineer).

There was a second panel about the real world applications of Machine Learning and included panelists from the Google team including Andrea Frome (Software Engineer), Yann Dauphin (Research Scientist) and Nyallen Moorosi(Software Engineer).

Estelle Akofio-Sowah, West Africa Regional Manager at CSquared gave a presentation about their Fibre Project which was formally Google Link. The Fibre project was created in 2011 with the aim of laying fibre infrastructure across different African cities. It was later rebranded in 2013 as Csquared with Google, Convergence Partners, International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Mitsui & Co., Ltd all having investments in the company.

Csquared’s current mission is to be a wholesale provider for ISPs and MNOs in Africa. They currently operate in Ghana, Uganda, and Liberia

Google established it’s AI Research Centre in Accra to meet the increasing interest in machine learning research across Africa.

The AI Centre will collaborate with local universities, research organisations and policy makers in Ghana and across Africa to deploy AI in solving challenges in the healthcare sector, agriculture, education, and other sectors.

Regarding the AI Centre’s mission, Moustapha Cisse had this to say, “We’ll work and collaborate with institutions across the continent; the team itself is very international; it’s already about 10 people coming from more than 12 different countries; Africans and non-Africans as well so we’re looking forward to collaborating with African Institutions. Our goal is to advance the frontiers of this science so we expect to have a scientific impact but also we expect to through collaborations with different institutions working on local challenges, have an impact to be on our field by applying the technology to agriculture to health and to other areas.”

With the official establishment of the AI Centre in Accra (Google’s first in Africa), Ghana’s capital city will join the likes of Paris, Zurich, Tokyo, Beijing, Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, Cambridge/Boston, Tel Aviv/Haifa, New YorkandSan Franciso as having research centres purely dedicated to AI research.

source: TechNova

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Facebook reportedly to launch new app to rival competitor TikTok




Facebook might launch its innovative app Lasso to compete with TikTok in India this year.

According to a report from Entrackr, the digital company is planning to launch the short video app by May.

Facebook launched Lasso in the US in 2018 and later introduced it to Mexico last year. According to app analytics company Sensor Tower, the app has been downloaded nearly half a million times in the US and over 2.2 million times in Mexico. 

The social media giant would sure want to attract some of India’s 627 million internet users. TikTok has been quite successful in India with nearly 500 million of its 1.5 billion downloads worldwide coming from the country. It’ll be challenging for the social media giant to overtake the Chinese short video app, which has over 200 million users in India.

TikTok’s had a controversial year in India. In April, the authorities asked Google and Apple to kick out the app from the Play Store and the App Store because of ‘porn’ on the platform. Later, the ban was lifted and the app was restored on these app stores. The app drew even more scrutiny as one of the TikTok stars was murdered in Delhi while trying to make a video for the platform.

Despite these controversies, the platform gained many users and grew steadily in popularity. It’ll be a tough task for Facebook’s new app to grow such a large user-base.

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Instagram cracks down on Suicide-Related Content




As a part of its efforts to create a safer and more pleasant environment for its users, Instagram has expanded the ban on self-harm and suicide-related content. From now on, the platform bans drawings, memes, and comics containing this kind of content. Bits from films or cartoons are also banned. And even images that don’t show self-harm or suicide directly, but are associated with it.

Back in February this year, Instagram announced a ban on the graphic content of self-harm on its platform. The latest decision is a mere extension of the previously announced ban. Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri, explained that the platform “no longer allow fictional depictions of self-harm or suicide on Instagram,” including all the material listed above. Also, accounts that share this type of content will not be recommended in search or Explore.

Mosseri notes that these issues are complicated. There are many opinions on how to approach them, and we can’t say either of them is ideal. Instagram and its CEO seem to be aware of it:

Two things are true about online communities, and they are in conflict with one another. First, the tragic reality is that some young people are influenced in a negative way by what they see online, and as a result they might hurt themselves. This is a real risk.

But at the same time, there are many young people who are coming online to get support with the struggles they’re having — like those sharing healed scars or talking about their recovery from an eating disorder. Often these online support networks are the only way to find other people who have shared their experiences.

Mosseri noted that Instagram is trying to make a balance between “allowing people to share their mental health experiences while also protecting others from being exposed to potentially harmful content.” He added that Instagram will also “send more people more resources with localized helplines like the Samaritans and PAPYRUS in the UK or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and The Trevor Project in the United States.”

Suicide and self-harm indeed are tricky topics to cover. As Mosseri noted himself, many people turn to social media to find support in the process of healing. This includes both those struggling with mental issues or suicidal thoughts, or those who lost someone close due to suicide. And yet, the others are influenced by social media in a negative way. In May this year, a young girl committed suicide after Instagram poll results told her to.

There are so many nuances, and there are no clear rules on how to approach this topic on social media. Because of that, I believe that Instagram will have to make a lot more effort and adjust its policy in the future to address this issue and balance between the extremes.

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Uber’s third round of layoffs raises major red flags



Uber has reportedly terminated employment for another 350 workers in its third wave of layoffs, the company revealed on Monday. Uber Eats and Uber’s self-driving unit were hit the the hardest according to documents obtained by Tech Crunch

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi sent an email to Uber workers to address what’s being described as “difficult but necessary changes.”

The company has parted ways with an estimated 400 workers in its marketing department since July and 435 engineering and product workers in September. Some workers have also been asked to relocate.

The ride-sharing giant admitted in August that it garnered $5 billion in losses in the second quarter of 2019, attributing the costs to one-time charges connected to Uber’s May stock offering. Excluding those charges, Uber’s ongoing burn rate has been around $1 billion in recent quarters. Third-quarter financial results are due out next month.

While the ongoing layoffs have raised concerns as to where the future of the company’s headed, UBER says those who were fired only make up about 1% of the company’s workforce. 

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