As part of Google’s promise to continue its support for Africa innovations, the AirQo Project at Makerere University will receive a $3 million award.
The grant will allow the AirQo project to expand its groundbreaking air quality monitoring work across the continent to ten cities in five countries.
Ruth Porat, the senior vice president and Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet and Google, said that the new grant funding will allow the AirQo project to expand its pioneering work on artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors from Kampala to ten new cities in order to combat air pollution, which is a leading cause of premature deaths.
“The $40 million in grants will assist locate more partners who are responding and innovating to difficulties they experience firsthand in their communities,” Porat explained.
By designing and deploying low-cost air quality monitoring networks, the AirQo project hopes to contribute to the improvement of urban ambient air quality.
The air quality monitors employ cloud-based artificial intelligence algorithms and software to measure and inform action and policy changes aimed at reducing and better managing air pollution and related health concerns.
Over 100 locally produced low-cost air quality monitoring devices have been installed across Kampala and other Ugandan cities by AirQo.
Its digital platforms, which include air quality portals and apps powered by artificial intelligence, provide communities with information about the quality of the air they breathe.
The new funding, according to Professor Engineer Bainomugisha, the project’s leader, is a significant milestone not only for the project but also for the African continent, as it will ensure that more African cities have increased capacity and access to evidence to raise awareness and combat air pollution.
“We are ecstatic to have been awarded a fresh Google grant. The grant will allow AirQo to expand its work outside Uganda, furthering our objective to collect, analyze, and model air quality data, as well as collaborate with partners to reduce air pollution and raise awareness of its effects in African cities. Bainomugisha stated, “Our objective is to attain better air in cities across the African continent.”
“We will provide information on air quality to additional African cities, allowing authorities to formulate policies and take actions to address air pollution in their individual countries and cities.”
Measuring air quality in Africa remains a difficulty, as most African cities lack the resources to do so due to the high cost of the equipment required to do so.
African-led efforts like AirQo, on the other hand, offer a long-term answer for measuring air quality.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution causes over seven million premature deaths per year.
In Uganda, ambient air quality values in monitored metropolitan areas are projected to be over 5 times the WHO’s 2005 yearly limits, with over 30,000 people dying each year from illnesses caused by air pollution.