To build human and institutional capacity for the development and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Africa to strengthen policy interventions, population health, environmental sustainability and health, gender and social equity in Africa
ACADIC-The Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Consortium, was created in January 2020, by an interdisciplinary team of Artificial Intelligence experts, clinical public health experts, epidemiologists, physicists, statisticians, mathematicians, modelers, software engineers policy makers and data scientists from Universities and Institutions in Botswana, Cameroon, Canada, Eswatini, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The Consortium steers and guides the implementation of plans and delivery of projects. Expert teams work together within the Consortium to gather relevant data and create a database, produce a succinct summary of a comprehensive and systematic review of the research findings, analyse existing evidence and evaluate its relevance in the context of: 1) challenges to public health in Africa; 2) new and significant scientific advances and opportunities from research by the consortium and best practices from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries to address the challenges; 3) critical research gaps, capacity and needs to strengthen efforts in African countries; and, 4) summary and guidance on priority areas with relevant information for innovations, strategies and evidence from predictive modelling to guide policy options for public health purposes. Each time-place-specific analysis is expected to provide: 1) succinct summaries of research findings useful in addressing the challenges in public health; 2) road map on community education, strategies, and policy imperatives to overcome the challenges; and 3) framework to strengthen the implementation of proven best practices and innovations.
Capacity building and engagement with policy- and decision-makers focuses on: 1) convening an annual Stakeholders Forum for National and Regional Public Health Leaders and decision makers, rotated among participating institutions and countries, in partnerships with an international public health implementation agency; 2) organising workshops for development of frameworks on production of policy briefings in each participating country; 3) commissioning expert opinion reviews; and, 4) using the platform to mentor train postgraduate scholars, public health leaders and postdoctoral fellows. Finally, the consortium is committed to respecting fundamental ethical principles and practices around equity, and data privacy and security. This includes equity in terms of ethnicity, gender, and people with disabilities. Equity will also include considerations of regional disparities. Applicant institutions regularly exercise and implement equity policies, and these are solidly embedded in the academic and research environments. The Executive Committee of the consortium is responsible for enforcing equity policies in regard to funding equity considerations. Models and analysis related to climate change will be stratified by gender, and gender-specific model parameters will be collected through AI technologies. These models will be used to provide gender-specific impact assessment of climate change and to inform mitigation strategies. In addition, early in this process we will establish a Working Group to identify appropriate parameters and indicators that operationally define gender issues and vulnerabilities, and to define and operationalize gender sensitive interview methods. These will be incorporated into all modelling systems.
Expertise of the Consortium in the Artificial Intelligence field
The ACADIC consortium has extensive expertise and experience in applying AI to African contexts. For instance, with $1.25 million support from Canada's International Development Centre (IDRC) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), it has been adapting existing models and simulations on COVID-19 transmission dynamics as well as public health interventions, locally relevant to specific African urban and peri-urban environments, in order to: (a) develop modelling tools and simulation dashboards that are highly relevant and practical to local health authorities and policy-makers in mitigating or suppressing the impact of subsequent waves of infections; (b) evaluate relative effectiveness and potential biases of public health interventions (e.g. local appropriateness and feasibility, cost, socio-economic impact); and (c) support communication strategies with local stakeholders that address dis- and mis-information about COVID-19 prevention and treatment. The ACADIC Consortium has been supporting good governance practices and helping create an environment that reinforces and motivates interinstitutional, international, and regional collaborations to foster effective implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination project.