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Microsoft launches tech research facility in Nairobi

Kenya , 29 Mar 2022

Microsoft has launched the Microsoft Africa Research Institute (MARI) at the Nairobi-based African Development Centre, to advance knowledge of AI, machine learning, systems and human-computer interaction (HCI).

A statement from Microsoft reads: “MARI will forge new synergies between research, engineering, and product development to power globally relevant innovation.”

Speaking at the Institute’s launch in Nairobi, Jaime Teevan, Chief Scientist for Microsoft, said: “Research has been really important to Microsoft, over the course of our existence, and it is important to our products. Digital technology is transforming work, and deep scientific innovation is required to enable productive and sustainable futures for everyone.”

Teevan added that having the research centre in Africa offers homegrown technical solutions for the market.

The research facility has already assembled a multi-disciplinary team of Nairobi-based researchers, designers, data scientists, and software engineers.

The team has completed its first scientific project on the digital transformation of African SMEs with a focus on how work practices have changed since COVID-19. They plan to release the findings soon.

Dr Kagonya Awori, Senior Applied Scientist, Microsoft, said, “About 86 percent of the SMEs we talked to adopted new technologies during the pandemic. We have seen SMEs who are using augmented reality and virtual reality, technologies we thought would not be adopted easily.”

In addition, MARI looks to shed more light on the use of local languages such as Swahili to explore how AI can extend healthcare beyond the clinic, and technology innovation to support digital transformation among local communities.

Since its launch in 2019, the African Development Centre has grown its employee numbers to 450 full-time staff in the areas of software engineering, machine learning, data science and market research. 

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