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AI: Gates Foundation selects 50 health, development innovators to deepen access, affordability

*United States-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation foundation explains responsible and safe use of Artificial Intelligence-driven Large Language Model technology has the potential to help solve some of the world’s toughest health and development challenges 

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Sequel to its most recent Grand Challenges request for proposals, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced about 50 grant recipients developing health solutions.

ConsumerConnect reports the grant recipients are developing global health and development solutions for their communities, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled Large Language Models (LLMs).

The Foundation made the announcement in a statement issued Wednesday, August 9, 2023, following an overwhelming response to its most recent Grand Challenges request for proposals in this regard.

Bill Gates Foundation, however, noted that the call for proposals is specifically, targeted at researchers and innovators in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs).

It also stressed responsible and safe use of AI-driven LLM technology has the potential to help solve some of the world’s toughest health and development challenges.

The Foundation said for these models to be useful in LMICs, researchers in LMICs must participate in the design, application, and testing of the technology as it rapidly evolves in the ecosystem.

According to the Foundation, a robust evidence base would fill gaps in access and knowledge about the application of such tools to address problems across LMICs in an equitable way.

The Grand Challenges programme, a family of initiatives is fostering innovation to solve pressing global health and development problems, it noted.

The statement further said the Foundation had received over 1,300 proposals, over 80 percent of which were from LMICs, within two weeks of posting its request for proposals.

The statement emphasised the selected projects from 17 LMICs aligned with the Foundation’s goal of fostering a global innovation ecosystem in places where it will have the most impact.

The Foundation said: “Each recipient will receive up to $100,000 to advance its research project, for a total of five million Dollars in grants.”

It is also noted the findings of these projects would be shared October this year, at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Dakar, Senegal.

How tech advances  deliver benefits to millions: Expert

Speaking on benefits of the new technology, Ms. Juliana Rotich, Co-founder of iHub, Nairobi, reportedly  said: “Too often, advances in technology deliver uneven benefits in many parts of the world due to existing patterns of discrimination, inequality, and bias.

“AI is no different, with most of the tools being developed in the Global North, using data from lower-resourced regions that is often incomplete or inaccurate.”

Rotich also stated “to realise the full potential of AI, it must be developed responsibly and ethically, with the needs of the end user in mind.

“Solutions can be transformative when they are locally inspired.”

Rotich would serve on the foundation’s new AI Ethics and Safety Advisory committee, according to report.

Meanwhile, Zameer Brey, interim Deputy-Director for Technology Diffusion, Gates Foundation, said local innovators are harnessing the seismic power of AI and LLMs in ways that could be paradigm-shifting for their local communities and beyond.

Brey said: “We believe the most impactful technological advancements include those that begin and end with the people they affect most.

Kedest Tesfagiorgis, Deputy Director, Global Partnerships and Grand Challenges, Gates Foundation, said that for 20 years, the foundation has sought and seeded innovation to solve the world’s hardest problems.

Tesfagiorgis asserted “we believe that accelerating progress in health and development requires collaboration among innovators from as many disciplines and as many countries as possible.”

Making AI relevant, affordable and accessible to all consumers

Tesfagiorgis said the foundation was eager to continue working with and learning from partners around the world to ensure the benefits of AI are relevant, affordable, and accessible to everyone, especially in LMIC communities, in a manner that upholds safety, ethics, and equity. Some of the projects include how LLMs can help frontline health workers in India, where one woman dies every 20 minutes in childbirth, and improve the management of high-risk pregnancies.

A project in Nigeria seeks to give critical financial advice through a voice-to text interface to rural women farmers and business owners.

Grand Challenges partners have awarded over 3,600 grants to a diverse pool of problem solvers in more than 100 countries, while at the same time fostering a global innovation ecosystem in places where it will have the most impact.

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