By Ademola Adeleye
Four Nigerian innovators in health, education and financial inclusion are part of 50 grant recipients who are developing global health and development solutions for their communities using Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled Large Language Models (LLMs).
The recipients are part of the nearly 2000 applicants who responded to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) call for proposals for the locally led innovation to help build an evidence base for use of artificial intelligence (AI) large language models in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to improve the livelihood and well-being of communities globally.
According to the Gates foundation, “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. However, for these models to be useful in LMICs, researchers in LMICs need to participate in the design, application, and testing of this technology as it rapidly evolves. A robust evidence base will fill gaps in access and our knowledge about the application of such tools to address problems across LMICs in an equitable way.”
The grant announcement is part of the Gates foundation’s Grand Challenges program, a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve pressing global health and development problems. The nearly 50 selected projects from 17 LMICs are aligned with the foundation’s goal of fostering a global innovation ecosystem in places where it will have the most impact.
The foundation says each recipient will receive up to US$100,000 to advance its research project, for a total of US$5 million in grants. The findings of these projects will be shared at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Dakar, Senegal, this October.
Four Nigerians who are part of the selection include: Nneka Mobisson of mDoc Healthcare who plans to integrate ChatGPT-4 into their chatbot, Kem, which provides virtual self-care coaching for low-income women of reproductive age in Nigeria, to improve its accuracy and capacity to respond to queries with evidence-based information; Chinazo Anebelundu of DSN Ai Innovations Limited who will develop a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)-focused multimedia learning platform by leveraging GPT and DeepBrain text-to-video AI tailored to rural students to increase their engagement.
Others are: Olubayo Adekanmbi of Data Science Nigeria, a former student of Lisabi Grammar School who will develop a multilingual, voice-based chatbot to demystify complex financial concepts and provide customized financial support to informal traders, women business owners, and smallholder farmers in Nigeria and Nirmal Ravi of EHA Clinics Ltd. Who will explore whether minimally trained frontline health workers equipped with LLMs could effectively substitute medically trained personnel to provide healthcare services in low- and middle-income countries.
According to Zameer Brey, interim deputy director for Technology Diffusion at the Gates Foundation, Artificial Intelligence can have a positive impact on the lives of the most vulnerable people in Africa through these innovations. “The vibrant energy, boundless creativity, and unwavering commitment from innovators to tackle the most vexing challenges has sparked a wave of interest and excitement in the positive impact AI can have in the lives of the vulnerable.These local innovators are harnessing the seismic power of AI and LLMs in ways that can be paradigm-shifting for their local communities and beyond. We believe the most impactful technological advancements include those that begin and end with the people they affect most, Brey said.
Speaking further, Kedest Tesfagiorgis, deputy director of Global Partnerships & Grand Challenges at the Gates Foundation said: “ “For 20 years, the foundation has sought and seeded innovation to solve the world’s hardest problems. We believe that accelerating progress in health and development requires collaboration among innovators from as many disciplines and as many countries as possible thereby maximizing the potential of AI requires a global community of creative thinkers bringing their unique perspectives and learning from each other.”
About Grand Challenges
The Grand Challenges family of programs stems from a century-old idea that crowdsourcing solutions to a defined set of unsolved problems can spark innovation and accelerate progress. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its Grand Challenges funding partners first used Challenges—open requests for grant proposals—in 2003 to focus attention and effort on pressing global health and development problems for those most in need. Together, Grand Challenges partners have awarded more than 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. The foundation and its Grand Challenges partners will continue to launch RFPs to support innovators from around the world in tackling the hardest, most urgent Grand Challenges. To learn more, visit grandchallenges.org.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman, under the direction of Co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.