AI Helps India Combat COVID-19When COVID-19 struck globally, India, like other nations worldwide, experienced a high volume of citizens infected with the coronavirus. By the end of May 2020, more than 150,000 Indian people tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the country’s leaders not only wanted to curb the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases but also wanted to address misinformation. To combat the COVID-19 “infodemic,” the Indian government needed a tool that could provide regularly updated COVID-19 guidance to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 throughout the country. For instance, MyGov Saathi shows how AI helps India combat COVID-19.

MyGov Saathi

The Indian government’s Digital India Corporation (MyGov) aimed to provide 1.3 billion people with a reliable artificial intelligence tool that provides factual and helpful guidance on COVID-19. By collaborating with Accenture and Microsoft, MyGov quickly developed an “AI-powered virtual agent” called MyGov Saathi, which means “companion” in the Hindi language. The AI tool was launched on April 24, 2020, and possesses similar abilities to Microsoft’s Power Virtual Agent and Azure.

“Self4Society” Webpage

MyGov Saathi is accessible on the Indian government’s “self4society” website where it is embedded. By managing communications automatically, more human capital is available to address “urgent and complex situations” that require human skill. Moreover, the artificial intelligence tool is able to provide “fact sheets, information on government initiatives, professional and medical advice and alerts and lists of myth busters” to address misinformation. Through MyGov Saathi, AI helps India combat COVID-19.

Extending its Reach

At first, the artificial intelligence agent only operated in English. Now, however, it communicates and offers information in Hindi and other local languages to extend its reach. In January 2021, MyGov Saathi had approximately 250,000 monthly users. The daily interactions on the platform range from hundreds to thousands. On average, over a 16-day period, MyGov Saathi has close to 600,000 “total active sessions.” AI helps India combat COVID-19 by providing individuals with speedy and valuable information to guide them through the pandemic.

COVID-19 WhatsApp Support Counter

Haptik, an artificial intelligence firm, created the MyGov Corona Helpdesk in March 2020. The “WhatsApp chatbot” operates 24/7 to answer COVID-19 questions and combat misinformation. The chatbot has capabilities such as:

  • A symptom checker and probable diagnosis function
  • Providing guidelines to prevent COVID-19 transmission
  •  Sharing up-to-date information from the Ministry of Health
  • Dispelling COVID-19 myths and misinformation
  • Sharing the contact details of the official COVID-19 hotline

By January 2021, the MyGov Corona Helpdesk served more than 25 million people and answered more than 36 million pandemic-related questions. These statistics show how AI helps India combat COVID-19.

MyGov Saathi’s Future Updates

Currently, the MyGov Saathi artificial intelligence agent only interacts with persons through a list of options. However, the country plans to update the software to “evolve from the menu model to engage in actual intuitive conversations with users.”

Overall, MyGov Saathi and MyGov Corona Helpdesk illustrate how AI helps India combat COVID-19, showing the growing importance of technology, even in unprecedented times. Above all, this demonstrates the universe of possibilities present in seemingly impossible circumstances.

– Jannique McDonald
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence in VietnamVietnam has experienced incredible growth since the 1986 Doi Moi reforms. Through these reforms that prioritized the market, the once struggling Southeast Asian nation became one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. In recent years, Vietnam has explored other ways to build upon this success. The country’s government has invested in artificial intelligence in Vietnam as a tool for development.

Development of Artificial Intelligence in Vietnam

In 1986 the Communist Party of Vietnam passed a set of reforms that shifted its centrally planned economy to a more decentralized one that prioritizes market forces. The reforms had profound consequences for the Vietnamese economy and poverty reduction. In the last three decades, the poverty rates declined from a stunning 70% to just around 6%, while the GDP per capita increased by 2.5 times.

However, in recent years the Vietnamese government has sought ways to build upon this growth through investment and further reforms. One area of interest is AI. Nonetheless, investment in the burgeoning technology has been lackluster until recently. Between 2015 and 2019, Vietnam invested less than a dollar per capita in AI. Meanwhile, Singapore invested $68 per capita in this technology.

However, many private companies have tried to invest and develop AI creating a small community of AI specialists. The country lacked government support, infrastructure, resources and training to develop the industry fully.

National Strategy on R&D and Application of Artificial Intelligence

Lately, the Vietnamese government has shifted its approach from passive support to underwriting the industry’s success. In March of 2021, the then Prime Minister, now President Phuc, laid out a master plan to develop the industry of artificial intelligence in Vietnam. The plan, entitled the ‘National Strategy on R&D and Application of Artificial Intelligence,” lays out Vietnam’s plan to develop AI until 2030.

Among other things, the strategy sets out to develop three national innovative centers on AI, ten Renowned AI Centers in the region, three national centers for big data and high-performance computing and 50 open, linked and connected data sets.

The entire government is being called upon to assist in this development. Fifteen government ministries and the Bank of Vietnam have all been given goals for integrating AI applications. A few examples from the strategy include: The Department of Defense has been asked to develop “intelligentization and modernization of equipment and weapons,” and the Ministry of Trade is tasked with creating “automated in-store purchases and delivery completion.”

Vietnam’s Long Term Strategies

The plan dedicates a certain amount of focus and resources towards AI development and vows to create an AI ecosystem and regulatory structure. The goals of the national strategy are ambitious. The Vietnamese government hopes the national strategy will propel Vietnam to the top four Southeast Asian countries and in the top 50 of the world for the AI industry by 2030. Essentially, the government is planning to make AI an important technology, spanning countless industries and private and government functions.

This support of artificial intelligence in Vietnam has manifested into more than just promises. A couple of months after the announcement to develop AI in the country, Vietnam launched its first artificial intelligence research center at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology. The Hanoi University and the Naver Group from South Korea will jointly run the center. The center will focus on basic research, connecting domestic and international AI operators and creating “made-in-Vietnam” core technologies. Furthermore, as one of the directors at the University, Dr. Ta Hai Tung described the center’s purpose as “…promoting AI applications in various industries and areas to accelerate digital transformation and boost the 4.0 industrial revolution in Vietnam.”

The Importance of AI for a Developing Country

In essence, the impacts the technology will have on the economy, society and everyday life motivate AI development in Vietnam. Overall, the potential application of AI technology is widespread. It spans healthcare, transportation, national security, finance and criminal justice and promises to streamline decision-making and data analysis and integration. AI development brings speed, efficiency, adaptability and expertise as it increases innovation, productivity, efficiency and cuts the cost of everyday business operations. As a result, the firm Price Waterhouse Coopers predicts AI can increase global GDP by $15.7 trillion by 2030.

The benefits of AI are particularly critical for developing countries that require non-traditional and cheaper technologies to streamline its development. For example, a financial institution out of Kenya, M-Shawri, which supplies customers with unsecured loans, utilizes AI to predict applicants’ default probability. In Mexico, the diabetic company, Clinicas de Azucar, utilizes AI to analyze health care data to better support thousands of diabetic customers.

AI development in Vietnam is predicted to be just as impactful. On its current trajectory, artificial technology is expected to contribute 12% to its GDP by 2030. As Tomoya Onishi describes it, “Hanoi wants AI to raise public sector productivity, particularly online public services to reduce processing and waiting times, public servant numbers, and other costs. Using AI to beef up national security is also high on the agenda.”

Artificial Intelligence as the Future

As the world prepares for an AI-driven future, Vietnam is searching to take advantage of the nascent technology to maintain and expand its remarkable growth. More than its rhetoric, the Vietnamese actively support the development of the technology through investment and setting up the necessary regulatory and legal structure. In other words, the government has prioritized artificial intelligence as a tool for development in Vietnam.

– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Flickr

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in SpainThe world of health technology has been growing exponentially in the last decade and continues to grow, especially with the novel coronavirus still affecting the world. One of the most prominent locations for health technology is in Spain. The industry has a large quantity of health tech company startups in Spain; high-quality companies are making new drug discoveries for treatments and creating virtual therapies that can help those in impoverished areas receive the medical care they need. Here are the top five health tech companies making strides in Spain.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in Spain

  1. Elma Care is an app that combines comprehensive health insurance with remote medical consultations. This great new resource emerged in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Elma Care is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because the app keeps all of a patient’s medical information in one place, allows consultation with primary care physicians remotely and offers tools like preventative medicine plans to help people access healthcare with more ease and efficiency. All of this is possible from the comfort and safety of the home, allowing for social distancing during the current global pandemic.
  2. Devicare is a specialty biotech company that focuses on chronic diseases. The company, founded in Barcelona, Spain, strives to develop solutions for the treatment process of chronic diseases. The company also offers a mentoring service with a team of experts and nursing staff. Often, chronic diseases involve a multitude of doctor visits and, in many cases, few answers. However, Devicare offers a cheaper and easier way of treating chronic diseases.
  3. Savana Medica provides a platform in which the clinical data for patients from healthcare organizations can be managed. EHRead, a form of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technology, can obtain valuable health information that aids medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because this technology fosters quick and efficient access to records, which can help doctors understand a patient’s history of disease and illness.
  4. Genomcore is a company that has created an interface that stores a patient’s genetic information. Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, the platform that Genomcore provides for patient information can be efficiently shared with medical professionals when necessary. Genomcore helps foster more personalized treatment for patients and consequently the possibility of faster recovery from illness.
  5. Mediktor was founded in 2011 but has made a new name for itself due to increased use during the pandemic. Mediktor is an app that gives symptom assessments to patients via their own personal devices before even seeing a medical professional. In March 2020, the company released the COVID-19 symptom checker. With Mediktor, people were able to determine, with great accuracy, whether or not they needed to see a medical professional in relation to COVID-19 symptoms.

The top five health tech companies in Spain are instrumental to the world of healthcare today. While many people have restricted access to needed medical attention, these new technologies can change that.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

Vertical FarmingThe new AI-run vertical farming plantation brings new possibilities to agriculture and efficient production, as Plenty, an ag-tech company, co-founded by Nate Storey, proves there is now more benefit than cost to vertical farming. By utilizing robots and artificial intelligence systems to regulate LED sunlight panels, watering systems and pest control, this futuristic method has surpassed its previous form of being too expensive and complex.

Vertical Farming

Through the current transitions made toward maximizing agricultural use of AI, farming today has already begun employing drones and smart robots to remove weeds or spread herbicides efficiently. Greenfield Robotics had already released different functional fleets active in certain farms. Now, Plenty utilizes similar technologies with robots harvesting and organizing plants in the vertical farming stations. Fundamentals such as water, temperature and light are systematically calculated and regulated through smart systems that prioritize a greater, faster and better crop turnout.

Benefits of AI-Run Vertical Farming

Through artificial intelligence, farmers are now able to adopt a more eco-friendly methodology. Robots and machine learning promote certain technologies such as tracking soil composition, moisture content, crop humidity and optimal crop temperatures. Despite the previous vertical farming history and cost-benefit analysis, modern-day AI-run vertical farming allows certain resources to be recycled, controlled and reused. This can be seen in AI-run water filtration systems that catch evaporated water from the farms or indoor energy renewal systems.

Alleviating Agricultural Issues

These innovations alleviate many issues that arise in agriculture and distribution. The most notable feat is the space that vertical farming saves in comparison to traditional farmland regions. Plenty’s vertical farm covers two acres and yields similar, if not better, harvest and product quality to that of a 750-acre flat farm. Plenty’s website expresses its greatest feat yet: “Imagine a 1,500-acre farm. Now imagine that fitting inside your favorite grocery store, growing up to 350 times more.”

Plenty also points out the freedom AI-run vertical farming brings to agriculture today. By being independent and self-sufficient with consistent sunlight, recycled water and a controlled environment, farming is no longer restricted to natural inconsistencies. Climate change and weather patterns do not determine the outcome of the produce, due to this new ability to control the necessary components to production. In light of COVID-19 and wildfires that breakdown supply chains, this factor prevents unprecedented shutdowns of essential services in agriculture.

AI-run vertical farming allows farms to exist within metropolitan sectors instead of weather-dependent regions. By having a closer source, distribution is more efficient leading to less CO2 emissions and dependency on preservatives. This method also allows cost reduction, since transportation, product cost and labor are reduced, which allows impoverished communities access to better produce.

The Future of AI-Run Vertical Farming

All things considered, this new innovative alternative brings a cleaner and more sustainable future for agriculture, whether it be in produce quality or carbon footprint. With Plenty’s ongoing environmental adjustments and technological updates, the organization continues to expand its service, with a $400 million investment capital from Softbank, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos and former Google chairman, Eric Schmidt. Plenty has also partnered with Albertsons to supply 430 stores in California.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

AI Increases Food SecurityArtificial Intelligence seems like a far-off concept reserved for science fiction. In truth, AI is present in modern life and the advancements in this technology are being used to combat global poverty. Most prominently, computer scientists and engineers are improving the ways that AI increases food security globally. The need for utilizing technology in food security is essential to protect more than 800 million people suffering from hunger worldwide.

Predicting Threats to Food Security

A vital step to protect food security is looking ahead and responding proactively to potential problems. The Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS) works by gathering massive amounts of data from vast sources to forecast developing situations affecting food supply. NEWS is a perfect example of how AI increases food security with constant improvements in its system to enhance response times to price changes, poor weather conditions for food development and other global crop issues.

The effectiveness of machine learning far surpasses human data collection and these types of technology have already seen success. Through the algorithms created by AI technology, a forecasted drought prevented many Colombian farmers from planting crops that would not have been fruitful. This prediction saved the farmers millions of dollars by avoiding crop loss during the dry spell. Preserving large amounts of money to spend during opportune times is another way AI increases food security and stabilizes supply.

AI Optimizes Agricultural Procedures and Production

People living in rural areas that work in farming communities are usually the most susceptible to extreme poverty. AI can improve working conditions and modernize agriculture to protect vulnerable populations and provide them with upward economic mobility through technology education and increased crop production.

AI robotics is revolutionizing agriculture and crop harvesting robots as well as AI-enhanced drones are increasing production and keeping workers safe. Robotic weed control allows for the proper and safe distribution of herbicides that can be harmful to humans. This also prevents herbicide resistance. In Argentina, drones inspect wheat crops for harmful infections and pests. AI increases food security by diagnosing soil conditions as well. This technology allows workers to implement the necessary strategies for correcting nutrient deficiencies.

The most important aspect of these technologies is that they provide benefits but will not reduce the need for actual workers. Though education in these fields can be expensive, the skills learned will add value and mobilize people out of extreme poverty.

The FAO AI Systems Used for Food Security

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has implemented two programs in which AI increases food security and improves agriculture sustainability; the FAO’s WaPOR portal and the Agriculture Stress Index System (ASIS). Both systems monitor water usage in agriculture in different ways.

  • The FAO’s WaPOR portal monitors water in the Near East and African regions. It does this through open-source technology that gathers massive amounts of data. Simultaneously, the AI analyzes the data to determine the best water use for different crops and regions and uploads the information in real-time.
  • ASIS works similarly to NEWS. It is a satellite system that works as an early detection system for droughts or other water shortages. ASIS breaks down the information from a global standpoint to each country and region. Doing this allows people to be proactive in their preparation for impending droughts by improving water usage and shoring up logistics of moving aid to an area troubled by food shortages, thereby preventing hunger.

The Future of Food Security

As time progresses, AI will improve and become more common, eventually becoming cheaper and more accessible worldwide. With the rapid advancement in this technology and what is already in place to sustain food security using AI, a hunger-free world is a closer reality.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

AI fights against COVID-19 COVID-19 has endangered the lives of millions of people around the world. Worse, the disease incites greater implications beyond itself. Its impact is threatening to turn back the World Poverty Clock for the first time this century. This would backtrack on the progress made in the past 20 years toward eliminating global poverty. However, artificial intelligence (AI) fights against COVID-19 in two very important ways.

A Basic Overview of AI

Originating in the 1950s, the field of artificial intelligence has become ubiquitous in our everyday lives: from determining our shopping habits to facial recognition to helping doctors diagnose patients before symptoms manifest. The computer performing tasks that we thought needed human intelligence is a very broad understanding of AI. Using a combination of programming, training and data, researchers who work with AI teach computers how to solve complex problems more quickly and efficiently than humans. In a similar process, AI fights against COVID-19.

The World Poverty Clock

The World Poverty Clock is a real-time estimate of the number of people living in poverty across the globe. Its interactive website provides a variety of statistics and demographics about those who are living in extreme poverty, including geographic locations and age ranges. Calculations are made using publicly available data to estimate the number of people living in extreme poverty and the rate at which that number is changing.

According to the World Bank, in a worst-case scenario, COVID-19 could push 100 million people into poverty. However, scientists are working hard to contain and eliminate the virus, AI being one of their strategies. AI fights against COVID-19 by predicting, detecting and eliminating the coronavirus in many parts of the world. In turn, protection from COVID-19 impacts lessens global poverty.

How AI Fights Against COVID-19

AI fights against COVID-19 in a two-pronged approach. It focuses on both detection of the virus and the development of vaccine options.

In late December 2019, the program BlueDot detected a cluster of pneumonia-like illnesses in Wuhan, China. This was the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. The program detected the virus nine days before the World Health Organization announced the emergence of a novel coronavirus. BlueDot software has the ability to sift through massive amounts of data to find patterns in the location and movement of a virus. Further developments in virus detection have been made by Alibaba Cloud with the creation of analytical software for computerized tomography (CT) scans. The software can detect coronavirus pneumonia in seconds with approximately 96% accuracy.

AI systems, like Google’s AlphaFold, are aiding researchers by creating predictive models of the protein structure of coronavirus. Models like these can then be used by researchers to design novel vaccine prospects. Overall, these systems enable scientists to reduce the time needed to begin clinical trials and find viable vaccines.

Under human oversight, AI systems can potentially control the spread of the coronavirus. The longer it takes to control and eradicate coronavirus the greater the number of people pushed into poverty. The use of swift and efficient AI applications could not only help curb the spread of COVID-19 but, in turn, fight global poverty as well.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

AI Usage in Agriculture
Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require humans, including visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and language translation. AI development has exploded within the last several years, and industries are beginning to adopt such systems to increase productivity and address challenges to growth.

The agricultural sector is one industry that is benefitting from the implementation of AI technology, and people are discussing and enforcing new applications for this technology every day. Several companies, such as IBM, FAO and Microsoft, are developing forms of AI that promote sustainable ways to achieve food and nutrition security. Currently, there are three main applications of AI usage in agriculture. 

Present Applications of AI in Agriculture

  1. Agricultural Robots – Some are using robots to perform essential and time-consuming agricultural tasks at a faster pace. For example, robots can harvest produce at a faster rate than human laborers with significantly reduced physical toil. One company that creates such robots is Harvest CROO Robotics. The company’s most recent development is a robot that picks and packs strawberries; it can harvest eight acres of berries a day and replace 30 human laborers per machine. By utilizing these robots, companies can improve productivity and increase yield.
  2. Crop and Soil Monitoring – Using image recognition, AI can use cameras to analyze soil quality and identify possible defects and nutrient deficiencies. Tech startup PEAT has made strides in soil monitoring AI in its development of Plantix, a deep-learning application that correlates foliage patterns with soil defects, diseases or plant pests. This application allows farmers to identify issues with soil quality quickly, allowing them to address any issues before the crop experiences damage.
  3. Predictive Analytics – These AI systems analyze data to make predictions about future outcomes. In agriculture, predictive analytics can improve market recommendations, pest modeling and crop yield predictions. This valuable information provides farmers with more certainty in their product outcomes while also cutting back on resources that they lose due to unforeseen circumstances. Precision Farming is one company that uses data from satellites and drones, such as temperature, precipitation and solar radiation, to predict weather conditions and plant nutrition.

Working Towards Sustainable Development

AI use in agriculture is allowing farmers to be more precise in their crop cultivation, producing a higher crop yield and quality. Agricultural robots optimize human activity and improve working conditions for farmers, while crop and soil monitoring and predictive analytics systems allow farmers to use resources more efficiently. This promotes sustainability in agriculture, as more successful produce outcomes cause farmers to waste fewer resources. 

 These AI systems contribute greatly to soil and water conservation. The Agricultural Stress Index System (ASIS), an indicator developed by FAO, is a computer that uses satellite technology to monitor areas that are highly susceptible to drought and water stress. Drought is the most damaging natural disaster to livelihoods, especially in developing countries. Therefore, predicting and addressing conditions of drought before they cause large-scale damage not only conserves water in times of need but protects human livelihoods. The implication of this is that more farmers, especially in developing countries, will have the means to support themselves and their families.

Fighting Food Insecurity

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, 135 million people were battling food insecurity. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated this problem affecting agricultural yields and livelihoods. The pandemic has impacted regions that normally depend on imports to support their populations the most, including Africa and island states.

Therefore, AI usage in agriculture in these regions can make a significant difference for populations that may already be struggling. FAO’s WaPOR portal monitors water usage through remotely sensed derived data over Africa, allowing for water and land productivity assessments. Saving valuable resources makes a crucial difference for countries that must rely more on domestic materials due to the present circumstances.

In addition, the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) is implementing a tracking unit that is collecting data to expand remote food security monitoring to 40 countries. The map quickly identifies food security emergencies and allows for quick response, helping humanitarians make evidence-based decisions on how and where to address food insecurity that could be damaging a population. By decreasing the time it takes for people to address these issues, the WFP is able to amend food insecurity for more regions in a shorter period of time and prevent them from deteriorating into situations of malnourishment. 

With all the strides that have already occurred in AI and its applications, it is easy to forget that the technology is new and has vast untapped potential. As the industry continues to develop, farming will expand as AI usage in agriculture overcomes more issues challenging greater yield, sustainability and food security.

– Natasha Cornelissen
Photo: Flickr

Limited access to healthcare is a challenge that millions of people face globally. According to data collected by the World Bank and W.H.O., roughly half of the global population had no way to access necessary health services in December 2017. The high costs of getting healthcare forced nearly 100 million people into poverty that year. For hundreds of millions of people across the world, even basic healthcare is economically out of reach. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put additional strain on healthcare systems around the globe. The pandemic has disrupted medicine supply chains in many parts of the world, preventing vital medical supplies from reaching hospitals in a timely manner. This is particularly dangerous for developing countries with healthcare systems that were already struggling to meet their countries’ needs. However, recent technological innovations like BraineHealth are seeking to revolutionize healthcare to overcome these issues.

How BraineHealth Can Help

This problem may seem insurmountable, but not to BraineHealth. The Swedish company is hoping to use artificial intelligence and robotics to make healthcare more accessible for people throughout the world. BraineHealth’s healthcare innovations can apply many areas of healthcare, such as primary healthcare, senior healthcare and mental health services. In all these areas, BraineHealth hopes to connect doctors and other medical professionals with their patients in a way that is easy, affordable and safe.

With BraineHealth’s system, patients could potentially receive diagnoses and expert medical consultations without having to leave their homes. This would reduce medical costs and travel expenses for patients, and it would provide a safer alternative to in-person appointments. Here are four BraineHealth programs that seek to revolutionize healthcare.

4 BraineHealth Programs Revolutionizing Healthcare

  1. Artificial Intelligence: BraineHealth is developing an AI program that will allow for quicker and more efficient remote diagnoses. This program receives information about a patient’s symptoms provided by the patient and analyzes this report. By examining it against a database of thousands of documented diagnoses, the algorithm can provide as accurate a diagnosis as possible.
  2. Diabetio: This program combines social robotics and artificial intelligence to assist diabetic patients with managing their diabetes. The Diabetio robot will help manage the patient’s carbohydrate intake, and it will keep the patient informed about whether they are at risk of developing diabetes. To help the patient most efficiently, this program will retain and process information about the patient’s daily activities.
  3. Medipacker: BraineHealth is also looking to revolutionize healthcare by expanding access to medical information and education through its Medipacker education program. This program aims to give backpackers the opportunity to become qualified first-aid providers at little to no cost. By removing economic barriers to first-aid education, BraineHealth hopes to encourage more people around the world to learn about emergency medicine.
  4. InEmpathy: Recently, BraineHealth has partnered with the charity InEmpathy. InEmpathy’s work focuses on building better systems of healthcare in developing countries. Crucially, this organization is now helping to bring BraineHealth’s technological innovations to communities in need. BraineHealth will therefore be able to adapt its technologies to best fit the needs of their destination countries.

Looking to the Future

Millions worldwide lack adequate access to healthcare. Even in areas that have hospitals, the costs of health services are often too high for poor communities. Using technological innovation, BraineHealth is working to revolutionize healthcare so that the people in these communities can have access to healthcare that would otherwise be out of reach.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence and Disaster ResponseNatural disasters are a phenomenon that affects countries around the world. The World Health Organization reports that more than 160 million people are affected by natural disasters annually. Estimates from the World Bank also suggest that 26 million people are forced below the poverty line annually due to natural disasters. Technological advancements with artificial intelligence (AI) aiding natural disasters may help countries with their response to such catastrophic events and help reduce these detrimental effects.

Natural Disasters Contributing to Poverty

Across the globe, poorer communities are more negatively affected by natural disasters than wealthier communities. Natural disasters have the potential to cause a major loss of income due to damage to infrastructure, crops, or a decrease in demand and tourism. This loss of income is more significant for those in the low-income category as they have fewer resources to begin the rebuilding process, potentially causing long-term poverty.

History shows that major natural disasters widen income inequalities. After the 2011 floods in Australia, low-income individuals lost an average of $3,100 AUD ($2,141 USD) per year. This lower income was typically maintained for five years after the natural disaster. Contrastingly, middle and high-income individuals gained over $3,300 AUD ($2,280 USD) annually for those five years. This was because emergency aid was more oriented to businesses rather than households, and the wealthy are more likely to own businesses. This example illustrates how low-income individuals are more vulnerable to being pushed into poverty due to a natural disaster.

The U.N. reports that, globally, the largest loss of life due to natural disasters occurs in poor communities. This may be a result of the fact that low-income individuals tend to live in geographical areas that are more prone to natural disasters. Additionally, those who are low-income tend to live in poorly constructed, fragile housing. This was observed in 2010 when an earthquake hit Haiti, where the largest loss of life was in a fragile and over-crowded housing facility, located in a poor community.

Artificial Intelligence Improving Disaster Response

AI is skilled at analyzing and tracking weather patterns to help predict the course and severity of natural disasters. However, technology has previously struggled to accurately predict earthquakes. Geophysicist Paul Johnson has assembled a team to use machine learning to predict these natural disasters. Machine learning uses technology to track data and identify similarities and patterns that occur prior to an earthquake. AI technology will then be able to analyze these characteristics to preemptively detect earthquakes. Johnson’s team has successfully used AI to predict earthquakes in a controlled laboratory setting. This technology would allow the opportunity for civilians to evacuate prior to an earthquake, decreasing injury and loss of life.

The application of this technology will resultingly allow for improved personnel and resource management once the natural disaster is detected. AI technology can now use geospatial observations to identify locations where people may move to during the natural disaster. This will allow officials to accurately complete rescue missions and send supplies to people who have relocated.

This technology will also help model which areas will be most affected by a natural disaster. AI can predict which buildings and roads will sustain the most damage throughout the disaster. This knowledge allows officials to re-route resources and response personnel to more appropriate areas. AI modeling will result in faster response times and more strategic access to affected areas.

McKinsey and Co. is an organization that uses technology to aid disaster relief efforts as a part of its Change That Matters initiative. McKinsey and Company’s AI uses satellite data and an algorithm to assess the damages sustained to a certain area. This allows for the responsible distribution of resources to help rebuild vital community services such as schools and medical facilities.

AI and Poverty Relief

AI is a tool that can be applied to many areas of life. The use of technology and AI is crucial in predicting natural disasters and improving aid responses after the disaster. These abilities and their effects lead AI to have the potential to play a major role in decreasing the number of people who are forced into poverty due to natural disasters.

– Laura Embry
Photo: Pixabay 

BlueDot, a Canadian artificial intelligence company, alerted its customers of an outbreak more than a week before the WHO notified the public of the COVID-19 outbreak. The company uses programs driven by artificial intelligence to analyze large amounts of information with the goal of discovering disease outbreaks. This company – and many others like it – could be key in helping thousands of people navigate COVID-19.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science focused on intelligence displayed by machines. There are both pros and cons associated with the development of artificial intelligence. However, with the possibility of COVID-19 pushing 50 million more people into poor households in 2020, many countries are doing everything they can to harness this developing technology.

Artificial Intelligence, COVID-19 and Poverty

People in impoverished communities are facing a serious dilemma: should they continue to work and potentially catch COVID-19 or stay home and face hunger or malnutrition?

There is currently no vaccine for the virus, and lockdowns and social distancing measures are effective but economically harmful. Most people in poverty do not have the financial savings to support themselves. Similarly, restrictions have the potential to push already unstable economies in less developed countries into a recession. Fortunately, artificial intelligence is providing new ways to support people in such challenging times.

4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Can Help Impoverished Communities During COVID-19

  1. Satellite images and phone data are assisting in identifying communities in need of financial assistance. Policymakers in Togo, a West African nation, teamed up with UC Berkeley to find ways to use satellite images and phone data to identify the country’s most impoverished communities and provide aid. A similar program is already in use in various African countries. The NGO GiveDirectly partnered with a local phone company to give governmental assistance to subscribers who live in impoverished communities. The government contacts citizens and offers them a cash transfer. In March alone, GiveDirectly made payments totaling over $2.5 million to 13,806 recipients.
  2. The technology could help researchers analyze COVID-19 data and make clinical decisions. A doctor from Kashmir is using artificial intelligence to detect patterns in large amounts of COVID-19 data. Currently, there is an overwhelming influx of public health data surfacing. In addition, with the virus’s potential to push more people into poverty, there is a need to analyze and evaluate the data quickly. The doctor is also working with local professionals to discover innovative ways to provide healthcare in the country.
  3. Developing countries have started using artificial intelligence for surveillance and social control. Nations like Ecuador, Kenya, Peru and South Africa are using surveillance technologies to ensure citizens are using social distancing measures. South Africa implemented a “real-time contact tracing and communication system.” The software used to create the system was originally intended to detect rhinoceros poaching hotspots in national parks.
  4. Artificial intelligence makes it possible to accurately screen many people at a time from a distance. China has used the technology to install distanced fever-screening systems in railway and subway stations. Beijing’s Qinghe Railway Station houses one of the systems, which can “examine up to 200 people in one minute without disrupting passenger flow.” Many developing countries are densely packed, and many people in those countries have poor access to healthcare. Screening large numbers of people in a short period of time can have a positive impact on the fight against COVID-19 in developing countries.

The race to harness artificial intelligence is on around the globe. Artificial intelligence has the potential not only to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19 on developing countries but around the world. The public database Kaggle is sponsoring the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge. Its hope is that experts around the world will come together to find new ways to use artificial intelligence techniques. Ultimately, this will produce new insights to assist in the global fight against COVID-19.

Araceli Mercer
Photo: Flickr