AI’s Potential in Public Health Facilities in the Global South

By Sumona Bose

January 5, 2024

Introduction

In a new study, researchers from the “Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium” (ACADIC) project have highlighted the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in addressing healthcare needs in the Global South. The interdisciplinary consortium, consisting of experts from various fields, aims to leverage AI and data innovation to improve public health and healthcare services in African countries. The concept of health and well-being has evolved beyond the absence of disease, encompassing physical, psychological, and social factors. AI and big data analytics (BDA) have the potential to transfigure healthcare by improving efficiency, effectiveness, and equity in service delivery. These technologies can predict disease risks, enhance laboratory functioning, monitor treatment outcomes, and forecast healthcare utilization. This article will uncover AI’s Potential in Public Health Facilities in the Global South.

The Importance of Ethical AI in Low Resource Countries

In low resource countries, access to quality healthcare is often limited due to various factors such as inadequate infrastructure, shortage of healthcare professionals, and limited financial resources. The introduction of AI in public health facilities has the potential to bridge this gap and provide much-needed support in delivering healthcare services.

Ethical AI should prioritize transparency and accountability. It is important for healthcare providers and policymakers to understand how AI algorithms arrive at their predictions and recommendations. This transparency allows for better decision-making and ensures that AI is used as a tool to support healthcare professionals rather than replace them.

Furthermore, access to AI technology should be equitable and inclusive. In low resource countries, where financial resources are limited, it is crucial to ensure that AI tools are accessible to all healthcare facilities, regardless of their size or location. This can be achieved through partnerships between governments, non-profit organizations, and AI consulting firms, who can provide the necessary expertise and resources to implement AI solutions in a cost-effective manner. There is a lot of AI’s potential in Public Health Facilities in the Global South.

‘Ethical and Equity’ of AI and BDA

To ensure meaningful and impactful implementation, there is an urgent need for socially and ethically responsible AI and BDA that are inclusive and collaborative. This includes research, training, diverse and representative databases, algorithms, platforms, and infrastructure.

“Responsible” AI and BDA prioritize fairness, inclusiveness, transparency, accountability, explainability, human-centeredness, privacy, and security. These practices mitigate risks such as biases in algorithms, privacy concerns, security issues, and implementation responsibilities in real-world healthcare settings.

Equity in health is a core value, particularly in resource-limited areas where poverty and inequities prevail. Strengthening sustainable health research capacity in the Global South is crucial. This involves adequate funding, equitable collaborations, mentoring and training of researchers, and linking research outcomes to policies and practices. It also requires decolonizing global health research and acknowledging non-western forms of knowledge and authority.

Conclusion

The potential of AI in public health facilities in the Global South is immense. However, it is essential to prioritize ethical use and access to AI to ensure its successful implementation. By incorporating ethical considerations and tailoring AI algorithms to the local context, low resource countries can harness the power of AI to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce health disparities.

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