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Health Technology in India
With India’s population nearing 1.4 billion, its health care system must be equipped to meet the needs of its people. The health care industry has struggled to keep up with the burden of disease and various health issues in the country, but has significantly expanded its reach in recent years, facilitated by almost doubling the investment in health technology in India. Some of the health challenges that India faces include inequalities resulting from access issues and inadequate resources.

The Ayushman Bharat program, launched in 2018 by the government, has aimed to move toward comprehensive health care with the end goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Included in this program is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), the largest health insurance program globally. The health coverage provided by PM-JAY targets the poorest 40% of the Indian population. This health insurance plan is cashless and paperless, with all information accessible from IT platforms. These improvements have grown the Indian health care industry, which is expected to be worth $372 billion by 2022. Here are other ways health care in India can be improved by technology.

Telemedicine and Disease Mapping

Investment in health technology in India can help address issues such as access gaps, the shortage of health workers and low doctor-to-patient ratios. Smartphones and online programs, such as messaging services, are being used to facilitate communication between doctors and patients, tackling geographical barriers to access to doctors and allowing easier access to consults, appointments and medical information.

Disease mapping is another aspect of health technology in India that is crucial to gaining an understanding of the largest health issues in various geographical areas and providing a visual representation of health disparities across the country. The Centre for Global Health Research (CGHR), founded in 2002, is co-sponsored by the University of Toronto and Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. CGHR does epidemiological research for the world’s poorest population. In addition to conducting many studies in India, the CGHR has created an interactive health map of the country to aid government and health officials.

Medical Databases

Online databases improve access to health data for both patients and doctors. This allows patients to receive medical information and data from home. Doctors can also monitor their patients if they are traveling or if they are helping patients in a different region. Many companies including Microsoft, Google and Amazon have made cloud services available to health care providers. Public as well as private sector health providers have increasingly been using these features.

In addition to generally improving the flow and accessibility of health information, clouds and databases increase the efficiency of health workers. Through these aspects of health technology in India, hospitals can consolidate data, and patient transfers and referrals become more organized. Using databases can also improve diagnoses and treatments by allowing doctors to easily access previous cases to inform their decisions regarding new patients.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The Indian health care system is increasingly using more artificial intelligence. The aging population and growing rates of non-communicable diseases have resulted in a demand for technology that can help predict diagnoses and future health challenges in patients. AI and machine learning (ML) include algorithms that find patterns in large amounts of data.

These technologies allow doctors to benefit from thousands of patient cases and information that help in identifying trends. Doctors are then able to make more informed diagnoses for new patients and create effective treatment plans. By analyzing patient data, AI programs can help diagnose patients earlier than would otherwise be possible. They can also help identify patients that might be more vulnerable to certain conditions. This also increases the effectiveness of disease prevention programs.

The use of AI in health care also has the potential to improve doctors’ understanding of what risk factors contribute to disease. Heart disease and cardiac issues have become a leading cause of death in India and doctors hope to use AI to analyze data and gain understanding about the factors contributing to the trend.

Furthermore, AI has the potential to increase the affordability of health care. While increasing the use of health technology in India will initially be expensive, the costs will eventually diminish. The processes will become more streamlined and focused on each patient, improving overall efficiency and decreasing costs. Investing in technologies such as AI can also help make up for the lacking resources and increase the efficiency with which resources are used by improving the accuracy of diagnoses and treatment.

 

While health disparities in India are very pronounced, the increased use of health technology in India is promising and could potentially decrease the level of health inequity. Various uses of health technology can minimize the consequences of health worker and doctor shortages, facilitate access to medical services and information and improve doctors’ understanding of medical trends and social factors relating to health.

– Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr

7 Facts about Technology in Kenya
Kenya is a small coastal nation in northeast Africa. Known as a popular tourist destination, people praise Kenya for its tea exports, beautiful landscapes and rich biodiversity. Currently, Kenya is engaged in a rapid expansion of its information technology sector. This makes it one of the notable tech hubs in the developing world. Here are seven facts about technology in Kenya.

7 Facts About Technology in Kenya

  1. Nicknamed the “Silicon Savannah,” Kenya is regarded as the second-best innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tech start-ups thrive in Kenya, due in part to the ready availability of credit lines and other forms of financing. 2019 was the ninth consecutive year Kenya exceeded the innovation relative to GDP figures expected from middle-income nations.
  2. Mobile financial transaction apps are especially popular in Kenya. Nearly 70 percent of the population uses these apps regularly. This is partially because the Kenyan government privatized the state-managed telecommunication services, leading to the eventual emergence of Safaricom, the now dominant face of telecommunications in Kenya. Safaricom debuted its first money-transfer app, M-Pesa, in 2007.
  3. M-Pesa is not the only successful mobile app in Kenya. Farmer Su Kahumbu Stephanou created iCow in 2011. iCow’s original function enabled farmers to monitor their cows’ breeding cycles and milk production. iCow gradually updated to feature advice and information for farmers to use to maximize their income potential. Since iCow runs on SMS, it’s available to farmers who can only afford older models of mobile phones.
  4. Kenya’s once outdated telecommunications networks are now some of the most cutting edge in Africa. Kenyans residing in urban areas have easy access to fast and affordable internet. The internet infrastructure in rural areas is catching up. Internet subscription rates increased from 29.6 percent in 2017 to 41.1 percent in 2018. As of June 2018, 97.8 percent of Kenyans owned a mobile phone subscription.
  5. iHub, a technology-focused co-working facility in Nairobi, opened in 2010. Today, it houses dozens of tech companies, researchers and entrepreneurs. iHub and Nairobi’s other tech incubators and innovation centers have enticed foreign venture capitalists and international companies like Google and Microsoft to invest in the local tech scene. Funding for tech startups rose 92.7 million USD in 2016, to 147 million the following year. In 2020, Nairobi will host the Next Einstein Forum, Africa’s marquee science and technology conference.
  6. A study conducted by the International Development Research Center in partnership with Oxford Insights determined that Kenya is well-equipped to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) technology solutions. Kenya employs some AI technologies, including sexual and reproductive health monitoring chat bots. While 78 percent of Kenya’s largest corporations have integrated modern IT solutions into business operations, only 20 to 40 percent of the nation’s smaller-scale businesses have done so.
  7. Kenya’s early success in tech enterprises encouraged the government to double-down in support of its new industry. The national Internet Communications Technology board worked with iHub on multiple projects. The government also instituted Vision 2030, a strategy to construct the infrastructure backbone necessary for further IT development. Plans are even underway to design and build a new city meant to serve as a national tech-hub. These plans are estimated to cost as much as 7 billion USD.

Although still in its early stages, Kenya’s emerging technology sector has quickly grown into a lucrative slice of the national economic pie. These seven facts about technology in Kenya show that the country is innovative and has made great progress in improving the availability of technology to its citizens.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Technology in Kenya

In recent years, a focus on technology crept through cables and bloomed within the country of Kenya. Mobile phones, an item sought after in developed countries, conveys a deeper significance for Kenyan citizens, establishing digital communities and managing the majority of payments. Other programs have been created in Kenya, focusing on artificial intelligence and information technology and communication.

AI Kenya & Artificial Intelligence

Devoted to the learning of artificial intelligence, AI Kenya acts as a growing community of data science practitioners, government officials and enthusiasts. The organization provides “tracks” regarding coding and machines, claiming whether “you’ve just learned to code or you’re a seasoned machine learning practitioner,” information will be provided, free to learn.

AI Kenya’s tracks are lessons, introductions and resources that aid the visitor on the path to digital learning. For the introduction to artificial intelligence, Microsoft’s AI Business School and a self-directed online course from Babson College are presented. For an intermediate track, a group of videos reviewing Statistical Machine Learning is listed, provided by Carnegie Melon University.

Across Africa and in various international countries, AI Kenya shares upcoming expos and conferences regarding artificial intelligence and digital technology. Podcasts join the organization’s information as well, spotlighting businesses and research or documenting Code Maktaba, a training event series improving community members on concepts.

VMWare & Information Technology

Besides artificial intelligence, other skills involving learning through technology prove valuable in careers. VMWare, a software company, leads an information technology (IT) academy with a program dubbed “Virtualize Africa.” The company commits to supply students with the technical skills and techniques needed to pursue jobs created by the digital age. They explain that to combat the rapidly changing and advancing technology in Kenya and other countries, skill sets must also be honed.

Strathmore University, located in Nairobi, Kenya, incorporates courses developed by VMWare which cover cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IOT), virtualization and other subjects. Students access online resources as well as in-person lab experiments. In partnership with VMWare, students may earn certifications by the company and chances to work as part of it.

Mobile Transactions

Kenya currently endures a hefty transition from cash to submitting payments with money-transfer systems on mobile phones. 70 percent of the country now use their phones to give money to each other, which is more than any other country. The interest inspires entrepreneurs to take advantage of cell phones and invent creative programs interweaving their technology.

Blogs have arisen, documenting technology in Kenya and how it is attracting others to the country. An environment fostering technological revolution supports the emergence of VMWare and AI Kenya, along with communities such as iHub, a center for creative professionals and influencers, hosting sessions for ideas and competitions.

While leading in mobile rankings, Kenya still wishes to rise up to developed countries with other aspects of technology. Currently, artificial intelligence and IT boast an abundance of programs and organizations. An increasing focus on technology in Kenya and schools also prepares students for the digital age and allows a head-start in the pool of technological revolution. Finally, the technological hub offers untapped sources of economic advantages, allowing companies to spread their programs outwards to the rest of the globe; the research on artificial intelligence allows for a web of further ideas, creating drones and services to aid the economy further.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

1Doc3There are less than two doctors for every 1,000 individuals in Latin America, making access to health information and medical guidance difficult to reach. Javier Cardona and Nicolas Duran Lopez created 1Doc3 in 2013 to change this, and the healthcare platform has already been making waves.

Background

1Doc3 (pronounced “uno doc tres”) is an online health platform that allows millions of Spanish-speaking users to ask health-related questions and receive professional medical guidance in real-time using artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, it provides data to health insurers and pharmaceutical companies to let them reach customers more efficiently. Furthermore, 1Doc3 is free and allows users to remain anonymous. It receives around $2 million in funding from investors like Wayra, TheVentureCity, Mountain Partners and Mountain Nazca.

The platform, which can be downloaded on computers and mobile devices, keeps a database of over 400 licensed doctors who are recruited, trained and monitored, ensuring that patients receive answers from the most qualified professionals. These doctors build their reputation online by providing personalized answers to users for free. This type of access is convenient, free and anonymous and allows users to make more informed choices regarding their health and wellbeing.

Helping Its Users

1Doc3 has served over 490 million Spanish-speaking users in 120 countries, 53 percent of whom are below 34 years old. Over 60 percent of the questions asked by these younger users are related to sex. While these types of questions may normally be too embarrassing to ask in person, the anonymity of 1Doc3 allows young patients to receive the right medical guidance and even provides coupons for products like condoms.

The platform uses AI to help these users navigate towards relevant information. For example, if a user were to ask a question related to their back pain, AI would ask where the pain is “above or below,” and if it is a “stabbing pain.” The personalized and innovative service is highly sought after and has even earned itself a partnership with Internet.org, a system that brings connectivity to users in places where internet access is spotty at best.

Helping Insurance Companies and Pharmacies

There is also a commercial aspect to 1Doc3. The platform’s AI serves as a data collecting module. Over 70 million questions are asked each year and this makes the database extremely informative. With this information, health insurers can provide cheaper treatment to patients by eliminating the necessity to physically go to a physician’s office – in fact, users save an average of 11 percent on treatment when they use 1Doc3.

The platform also helps medical insurance and pharmaceutical companies identify patients for rare diseases. For example, 1Doc3 helped a client pharmaceutical company find patients who were suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, which is a relatively rare and difficult to diagnose. 1Doc3 identified back-pain along with the presence of three or four other symptoms to seek out those suffering from ankylosing spondylitis and provide resources for treatment. In this case, it connected patients to pharmaceutical companies who could provide the right medication and professional care.

The Future of the Health Industry

1Doc3 is described by Javier Cardona as a pocket-size doctor who is available to users at any time and provides integrated solutions to health issues. Although the bulk of its users are in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and Peru, the administrative team is planning to expand globally and provide these capabilities to users all over the world.

While other healthcare platforms may also provide medical information to users, it is not always personalized. 1Doc3 is a revolutionary free service that changes the face of healthcare by connecting patients to doctors in a timely manner and pointing users in the right direction. It removes barriers like time, cost and inaccessibility and puts the health back in the hands of the user.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

AI to Meet the Sustainable Development Goals
Tech giants are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create innovative strategies to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and eradicate global poverty by 2030. A central barrier to development in third-world nations is in-access to high-quality, timely and accessible data.

Big data platforms like AI expand capabilities to acquire accurate, real-time, micro-level information, while ML allows pattern recognition at a macro-level. Combined, these data advances can make data more accessible, applicable and finely scalable while accelerating the speed and scale for private and public development actors to implement change. Companies are partnering across public, private and nonprofit sectors to broaden the collective impact.

Take a look at the innovative approaches tech giants are taking to help global poor communities with data and what the incorporation of AI technologies means for the future of global poverty initiatives. These approaches aim to employ AI to meet the SDGs within its allotted time frame.

Education and Digital Training

On June 19, 2019, the day preceding World Refugee Day, Microsoft announced the inception of two projects partnering with Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). These projects supplement its AI for Humanitarian Action group to help incorporate AI to meet the SDGs.

The AI for Humanitarian Action group is a $40 million, five-year program part of Microsoft’s larger AI for Good suite (a $115 million, five-year project). The projects will provide AI tools to help staff track court dates, prioritize emergency cases and translate for families with AI speech-to-text. Microsoft also has continuing partnerships to incorporate AI/ML into educational services for refugees with the following groups:

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): This committee works to provide humanitarian aid through the creation of sustainable programming for refugees, displaced populations and crisis-affected communities. This includes career development programming and digital skills training to empower refugees and make them relevant for the job markets in each affected country. Microsoft and IRC’s Technology for Livelihoods in Crisis project in Jordan is an example of this.
  2. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): Together with the University of Cambridge, the UNICEF is developing The Learning Passport. The digital platform will ensure better access to education and facilitate learning opportunities for youth displaced by conflict and natural disasters. It creates scalable learning solutions tailored to each child. Crises have affected the quality of education for 75 million youth.
  3. Norwegian Refugee Council: This council is providing an AI chatbot service that uses language understanding, machine translation and language recognition to deliver high-quality education and digital skills training to refugees. This helps to close the education gap for the millions of youth affected by conflict. It will also help humanitarian workers communicate with migrants who speak other languages, which will help them best provide the best service.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): UNHCR plans to provide 25,000 refugees in Kakuma with access to high-quality, accredited, context-appropriate digital learning and training by 2020 for development in Kakuma markets. UNHCR intends this project to expand across multiple countries.

Food Security and Agricultural Development

The fact that farms do not always have power or internet security limits technological developments that address food security and agricultural development. Here are some efforts that consider the capabilities of farmers and the respective developing regions:

  1. Microsoft FarmBeats: It aims to enable data-driven farming compatible with both the capabilities of the farmer and the region. FarmBeats is employing AI and IoT (Information of Things) solutions using low-cost sensors, drones and vision and ML algorithms. This combined AI and IoT approach enables data-driven improvements in agriculture yield, lowered costs and reduced environmental impacts of agricultural production, and is a significant contribution to help AI to meet the SDGs.
  2. Apollo: Apollo uses agronomic machine learning, remote sensing and mobile phones to help farmers maximize profits in developing markets. Apollo delivers scalable financing, farm products and customized advice to farmers while assessing the farmers’ credit risk. Apollo customizes each product in order to double farm yields and improve credit. The beta project is starting in Kenya.
  3. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)/CGIAR research group: It aims to implement preemptive solutions rather than reactive solutions to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. CIAT has developed a Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS), which uses machine learning to make predictions on malnutrition patterns based on current and future estimates of crop failures, droughts and rising food prices. This approach is able to detect an impending nutrition crisis and take action instead of responding after the crisis has taken hold.

Socioeconomic Data Collection

According to a report by The Brookings Institute as a part of its “A Blueprint for the Future of AI series,” data providing national averages “conceal more than they reveal” and inaccurately estimate and map patterns of poverty. Survey data is often entirely unavailable or otherwise low in quality in many of the poorest countries where development needs are greatest. 39 of the 59 countries in Africa conducted less than two surveys between 2000 and 2010.

Even in large countries with sophisticated statistical systems, such as India, survey results remain inaccurate, with the gap between personal reporting and national accounts amounting to as much as a 60 percent difference in some countries. Companies are addressing this by utilizing big data from remote sensing satellites.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is using Earth Observations (EO) to provide finely-tuned and near-real-time data on economic activity and population distribution by measuring nighttime luminosity. Researchers have noted a correlation between luminosity and GDP as well as subnational economic output. Collecting socioeconomic data in this way can ensure higher quality data important to policy implementation and direction to countries with the greatest development needs.

Timothy Burke and Stan Larimer launched Sovereign Sky in 2018, putting satellite data into action. Sovereign Sky is the world’s first space-based blockchain which provides secure private internet networks and powers a new Free World Currency to redistribute the world’s wealth with a goal of eradicating poverty by 2032.

The eight current satellites cover Africa and India and the organization will send boxes of StealthCrypto phones, digital wallets, smart cards and modems to people in need. Sovereign Sky will deploy 36 satellites within three to 10 years to cover the entire world in a secure blockchain internet connection, closing the gap on technological interactions between all nations and including the world’s remotest and poorest areas in internet connectivity.

Pitfalls of AI-Driven Global Development Initiatives, and Moving Forward

AI and ML have crucial capabilities in reshaping education, agriculture and data collection in the developing world. However, these technologies have a history of producing unethical racial profiling, surveillance and perpetuating stereotypes, especially in areas with a history of ethnic conflict or inequality. AI and ML applications have to adapt in ways to ensure effective, inclusive and fair distribution of big data resources in the developing world. Development experts need to be in close collaboration with technologists to prevent unethical allocations.

This diversification is why it is important that tech giants like Microsoft, and projects like those by the ICAT/CGIAR, are created in collaboration with various nonprofit, public and private sector groups to ensure interdisciplinary ethical liability for big data applications in sustainable development contexts. Ensuring the use of AI technologies is context-specific to the affected regions and populations will help prevent misappropriation of the technology and increase quality and effectiveness.

Working with local companies and sectors can create long-lasting engagement and grow permanent technology sectors in the developing areas thus contributing to the local economy. These strategies can put forth effective, ethical and productive applications of AI to meet the SDGs.

– Julia Kemner
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished
Artificial intelligence has evolved from a futuristic fantasy to our living reality. The possibilities for artificial intelligence-based solutions are continuously developing. Therefore, the potential to expand the reach of various initiatives to help those in poverty is increasing. Recently, companies have recognized that artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by contributing to various sustainability initiatives in impoverished countries. The globally impoverished disproportionately suffer from the negative impacts of environmental issues. Artificial intelligence can help those in poverty restore a sense of empowerment in struggling communities.

How Artificial Intelligence Helps the Impoverished with Sustainability Goals

  • Wadhwani AI – The focus at Wadhwani AI is to bring artificial intelligence to communities in need (and thus that are the least likely to have access to artificial intelligence). One of their current projects focuses on cotton farming. Cotton is the third-largest crop in India with 75 percent grown by small farmers who struggle to have a stable income. Pests are a huge problem for small farmers for both economic and mental health reasons. After 40 percent of cotton crops were destroyed by a pink bollworm attack between 2017-2018, 100,000 cotton farmers committed suicide. As many pesticides have proven unreliable over time, Wadhwani AI is developing technology to detect pests, reducing crop losses and pesticide use.
  • GringgoRecycling collection is incredibly limited in impoverished areas. Generally, only 40 percent of trash is collected in South East Asia. Gringgo, based in Indonesia, uses an app to help collect plastic waste. The app connects waste collectors to uncollected recyclables in their area that can be sold for a profit, increasing income for waste workers and cleaning up waste simultaneously. Recycling facilities purchase these recyclables and convert them into various commodities. For example, plastics can be converted into fuel for the cement industry. Selling waste back to recycling industries (effectively taking it out of the waste stream) reduces ocean pollution, as many landfills are located near rivers, causing much of the collected waste to end up in oceans. Gringgo aims to increase recycling rates by 50 percent by 2022 and reduce the plastic in oceans by 25 percent by 2020 in South East Asia.
  • Makerere University – Air pollution causes more than 700,000 deaths in Africa yearly. Additionally, 98 percent of cities in low and middle-income areas do not meet air quality guidelines. Finding solutions to reduce air pollution is imperative. Based in Uganda, Makerere University demonstrates how artificial intelligence helps the impoverished by aiming to improve air quality. By using low-cost technology, Makerere University hopes to obtain more data on air pollution and the communities most at risk. Sensors attached to taxis around Uganda track pollution and will ultimately forecast future air pollution rates. Policymakers will use this data to make informed decisions regarding industrial changes to reduce air pollution. As data on air pollution rates in specific communities is currently lacking. However, this study could raise awareness among citizens about the unhealthy pollution rates in their own communities.

AI expansion is inevitable; it is already happening. While there are many possibilities for how artificial intelligence can help the impoverished, companies may also question the ethics of new technologies and possible impacts. That being said, it is clear that artificial intelligence can help those in poverty when paired with an open dialogue with those involved in terms of how to help.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Famine Action Mechanism
The World Bank has discovered a new approach to helping the 124 million people currently affected by crisis-levels of food insecurity: artificial intelligence.

Three international organizations: the World Bank, the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross, have partnered with three of the world’s largest tech giants: Microsoft, Google and Amazon, in a joint initiative to preemptively address world hunger. The result? It’s called the Famine Action Mechanism (FAM).

What is Famine Action Mechanism?

Launched by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on September 23, 2018, in New York, the Famine Action Mechanism seeks to improve international food aid through famine prevention, preparedness and early action. FAM is being created to augment the capability of existing warning systems to effectively distribute aid prior to the emergence of famine. This is being done through the establishment of official procedures that connect early warnings with financing and implementation.

With the cooperation of humanitarian development organizations, tech companies, academia, the insurance sector and, of course, international organizations, this collaborative effort hopes to see success through the investment of a wide variety of stakeholders.

While other forms of famine prediction, like Famine Early Warning Systems Network started by USAID in 1985, already exist, it lacks the ability to give real-time data and requires the hard work of hundreds of employees.

If successful, the Famine Action Mechanism will be the first quantitative modeling process using an algorithm to calculate food security in real time.

Hope is high for executives at Google and Microsoft who have seen the humanitarian power of technology firsthand. Advanced technologies have already proven effective in helping farmers to identify the disease in cassava plants as well as keeping cows healthier and more productive. President of Microsoft, Brad Smith, has expressed that artificial intelligence holds huge promise in forecasting early signs of food shortages.

How is FAM going to be implemented?

Famine Action will be implemented through four steps:

  1. Early warning systems. Microsoft, Google and Amazon web services are coming together to develop a set of analytical models known as “Artemis” to predict cases of famine using artificial intelligence and machine learning that detect correlations between different risks. With more powerful early warnings and information in real time, this will allow aid agencies to create a faster response and preemptively halt escalating insecurity.
  2. Pre-arranged financing. Syncing the early warning system with pre-determined finances helps to prevent food insecurity because it secures funding before a situation devolves into a crisis. The financing for this program is not only set to tackle the immediate symptoms of poverty and famine but also help the community to build safety nets and coping skills to encourage local development in hopes of preventing repetition in the future.
  3. Increasing resource efficiency. The Famine Action Mechanism plans to partner its resources with existing systems to reinforce the most effective and efficient efforts that are already working on the ground. This way, it will be producing a joint response system with the organizations involved with the program.
  4. Stressing preventative and preparedness approach to global famine crises. International Organizations like the U.N. and World Bank are redefining their approach to food insecurity, poverty and famine, making a proactive system of action rather than reactive aid a top priority of their efforts.

Isn’t Famine Pretty Easy to Predict?

While seemingly slow to take place, the cause of famine, defined as a daily hunger-related death rate that exceeds 2 per 10,000 people, is extremely complex.

The usual suspects of food insecurity like drought and crop production aren’t always the forces that bring a community to famine. Other factors like political instability, inflation or a natural disaster have the potential to significantly alter a community’s food supply. Additionally, nine of the last 10 major famines were triggered by conflict and war.

The uncertainty around when and how an undernourished community shifts into a crisis of famine adds to the importance of preemptive action for food insecurity and the demonstrated need for the Famine Action Mechanism.

Hunger in the World Today

After years of progress on decreasing hunger in the world, we have backtracked on those advancements with more than 820 million undernourished people in 2017. Approximately 155 million children will see the effects of stunting for their entire lives due to chronic malnourishment as well as a reduction of up to 13 percent of their lifetime income. Additionally, last year in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan, more than 20 million people faced famine or near crisis levels of food insecurity.

One in nine people in the world today do not have enough to eat, but that does not mean we cannot get back on track. Not only can early response to famine result in saved lives and decreased suffering, but it is also cost effective. The World Bank predicts that an earlier response rate can reduce humanitarian costs up to 30 percent.

In 2017, the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged to have zero tolerance toward famine, and in the declaration of this program that pledge has been renewed. In the eyes of the United Nations, the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development means ending hunger everywhere for everyone.

To conclude, in the words of Mr. Guterres: “Crisis prevention saves lives. We need to put cutting-edge technology to full use, in the service of all humankind in order to feed everyone in our world and to leave no one behind.”

– Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr

AI to fight poverty
On September 25, 2015, United Nations member countries adopted a set of goals “to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.” The number one goal to be achieved by 2030 is to eradicate extreme poverty.

Fighting global poverty is a huge battle, and many countries don’t keep data on the frequency and distribution of poverty, which makes it hard to track.

The lack of clear, representative data is what drove students and professors at Stanford University to create the Sustainability and Artificial Intelligence Lab. The lab focuses on many different projects that use artificial intelligence to fight poverty.

Neal Jean, Marshall Burke, Michael Xie, W. Matthew Davis, David B. Lobell and Stefano Ermon started the Predicting Poverty project 18 months ago. The project combines the forces of satellite imagery and machine-learning algorithms to detect places in the world that put off more light at night than others. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak with Burke about the work the team is doing.

The logic is that the brighter the lights in an area, the more developed that country is likely to be. Over time, the tracking of “night lights” can give information about where and how extreme poverty is. Using artificial intelligence to fight poverty can also recognize where there are roads, urban areas, waterways, and farmland.

“We are still in the stage of making sure the satellite-based approach works,” Burke said. “We have had great results in five African countries, but still need to know how it works in other countries and whether it can make decent predictions of changes in poverty over time.”

The group has tracked poverty in Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Malawi and Rwanda. The methods used in these countries are inexpensive. By mapping where poverty is most significant, aid organizations can properly distribute help and materials.

Once they have figured out whether the technology can predict changes in poverty, the team hopes to track all of Africa and monitor many other Sustainable Development Goals using technology.

“I think AI could provide some large benefits in regions of the world where we currently have little on-the-ground data about economic well-being — which includes a lot of the developing world,” Burke said. “AI-based approaches can help us measure livelihoods on the ground in these places, and also help us understand which sorts of anti-poverty programs are particularly successful in reducing poverty. “

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Artificial_Intelligence
Silicon Valley superpower Google is developing artificial intelligence technology that is intended to help the world solve some of its healthcare issues. Teaming up with the U.K.’s governmental healthcare structure, they hope their new invention will be able to detect and prevent eye diseases and blindness.

In collaboration with its subsidiary DeepMind, a company that uses complex algorithms to teach computers how to better analyze information and learn from it, Google will introduce about one million eye scans to DeepMind’s algorithms. They hope the artificial intelligence system will be able to analyze scans and conclude a diagnosis faster than ever before. This has the potential to allow doctors to treat a patient before a “point of no return.”

DeepMind, a London-based artificial intelligence startup acquired by Google for $500 million, is an expert at making computers behave and think like humans. They were praised for teaching a computer to master Atari system games. The computer was able to beat world masters.

Now, Google hopes to harness the cognition powers of their computers to serve the world’s sick. Although as of now the system is implemented at just one of the National Health System hospitals in the U.K., it has a global reach in its implications. More than 100 million individuals worldwide are inflicted by vision problems relating to diabetes or age. This technology could help all those millions to prevent their eye diseases and vision loss before they are even aware they have it. For global health advocates, this is a very promising innovation that could find widespread success

Google has been diligent in designing groundbreaking solutions to intractable problems. The tech giant and its umbrella company, Alphabet, have been investing a large amount of resources toward global health. Businesses are beginning to realize that investing in a healthy world returns profit, and benefits everyone.

Connor Borden

Photo: U.N. Multimedia