The funding will enable IDinsight to create an open-source question-answering AI-powered chatbot that will provide health information to new and expectant mothers in South Africa.
Sept. 12, 2023 – IDinsight announces today it is receiving $1.1 million in grant funding and additional support from Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, to build an open-source multilingual question-answering chatbot. The AI-powered, FAQ-based chatbot will be deployed to provide timely and relevant healthcare information to four million new and expectant mothers in South Africa. IDinsight will be open-sourcing its library to make it easier for social sector organizations to deploy chatbots.
While maternal mortality rates in South Africa have declined in recent years, new and expectant mothers still lack support for urgent pregnancy and childcare concerns. IDinsight, with Reach Digital Health built a natural language-powered question-answering service that reduces barriers to critical health information and detects and prioritizes those most in need to speak to help desk operators. With support from Google.org, IDinsight aims to reduce the number of mothers with urgent health issues that go unanswered, improve language accessibility, and create an open-source platform that helps other organizations provide underserved community members easy access to information.
The maternal health help desk, run by the South African Department of Health currently serves more than four million women, most of whom send their questions directly to a team of help desk operators. But a user base this big can easily overwhelm even the most dedicated team; in peak times, the team of three receives more than 1200 questions per day. In the context of maternal health, where questions are time-sensitive, it is important for the help desk to quickly and accurately answer a high volume of incoming questions while prioritizing urgent queries. Automating responses and prioritizing nuanced and urgent cases ensures that expectant women receive the information and help they need immediately.
Barriers to information exist not just in maternal health, but across many other social sectors. Farmers seek agricultural best practices or the latest market prices for their outputs. Young people seek information about sexual and reproductive health. Citizens want to know which benefits they may be eligible for, or even if a new policy applies to them. By creating an open-source and customizable question-answering product, IDinsight hopes to make it cheap and easy for non-governmental organizations and low- and middle-income country governments to create new channels for their citizens to seek reliable information.
Google.org’s AI for the Global Goals Impact Challenge is part of Google’s company-wide commitment to help accelerate progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. IDinsight is one of 15 organizations receiving support through the $25 million philanthropy challenge for projects that use artificial intelligence (AI) to accelerate progress towards these goals. Out of many submitted proposals, 15 were selected for funding. Importantly, all of the projects will be open-sourced, so other organizations can build upon the work. More here.
“Each of the 15 selected organizations share our vision for using AI to accelerate progress on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and each organization brings their own expertise to help move the needle,” said James Manyika, Google’s SVP of Research, Technology & Society. “We are inspired by the possibilities they see for how AI can be harnessed to help people solve societal problems, and are excited about the collective impact they will have over the next three years.”
“This support from Google.org comes at a critical time,” said Sid Ravinutala, Director, Data Science at IDinsight. “It will enable us to improve the accuracy of the bot, expand to other languages, and reduce the cost of operating the service. We will also be open-sourcing our library to make it easier for other organizations to deploy FAQ bots.”
Read more about IDinsight’s work using AI to improve health outcomes in South Africa here.
IDinsight is a mission-driven global advisory, data analytics, and research organization that helps global development leaders maximize their social impact. We tailor a wide range of data and evidence tools, including randomized evaluations and machine learning, to help decision-makers design effective programs and rigorously test what works to support communities. We work with governments, multilateral agencies, foundations, and innovative non-profit organizations in Asia and Africa. We work across a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, education, health, governance, sanitation, and financial inclusion. We have team members who are remote and have offices in Dakar, Lusaka, Manila, Nairobi, New Delhi, and Rabat. Read more at IDinsight.org
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