October 27, 2021

Ugandan Exchange Alumnus Wins Google Grant for AI-Driven Clean Air

Pic of BainomugishaOn building rooftops and backs of motorcycle taxis “boda bodas”—the city’s most common method of transportation—in Kampala, Uganda, sits Engineer Bainomugisha’s creation to actively track and clean up Africa’s air pollution. Bainomugisha, an ExchangeAlumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, designed the small, black, low-cost boxes to collect samples from over 50 locations and use AI to detect and predict the flow and variety of local pollutants. He and his team were recently selected for the 2019 Google AI Impact Challenge - one out of 20 teams, and out of 2,600 submissions.

The grant goes to organizations that use AI to address societal challenges in their communities. Bainomugisha’s project is being used by the Ugandan government to make informed policy decisions and help communities in the city forecast daily pollution levels. Bainomugisha studied computer science at Makerere University in Kampala and now serves as Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Computer Science. He also leads a team of students under the AirQo project, which predicts air pollution patterns in the capital city through human ingenuity and AI models stored in cloud software. Bainomugisha notes that he has always had a passion for studying air and hopes that his ideas can also be used to help farmers in developing nations monitor local soil and infrastructure conditions to better tend to their agriculture and livestock.

Over seven million people die each year globally from air pollution. According to Bainomugisha, computer science has a role to play in finding solutions: “I believe in the transformative power of computational technology and intelligence to tackle complex society challenges and improve people’s lives.”

Read more about Bainomugisha’s Google award, his life, and work at https://about.google/stories/clean-air-for-kampala/ and https://ibaino.net/.