Google and Howard University announce Project Elevate Black Voices

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Google’s responsibilities will include performing user experience research to collect input from the community, providing infrastructure for data collection, funding and obtaining a license to use the data commercially. Howard will lead the coordination effort with other HBCUs, manage vendors, recruit participants and maintain the repository.

We’re solving the pipeline problem that plagues traditional speech collection. This project is not just focusing on data collection, or transcriptions, or the output, it’s leveraging community-centered methods and expertise.

To ensure the safety of participant data, Google is conducting research to determine best practices for speech collection and identifying as many risks as possible, and aligning with Google’s AI Principles which directly inspired Howard’s own set of best practices.

“I see this becoming a whole consortium of HBCUs that work together to understand and improve technology for Black people in a respectful way, and show that you can create technology that celebrates Black voices,” says Dr. Washington.

Project EBV is in its infancy and has just begun to take its first steps, but the big-picture goals and Dr. Washington’s vision guides the team.

As owners of the dataset, Howard will take the lead on its licensing and sharing with other parties who wish to contribute to this effort. Google also hopes to use the dataset to improve its own products, ensuring that our tools work for more people.

In the end, the ultimate goal is allowing people to voice technology and express themselves authentically.

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