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Gates Foundation’s latest ‘Challenge' seeks to help low-income countries through AI

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s new AI Challenge is offering up to $100,000 each to projects that test new methods for using AI to overcome everyday obstacles in low- and middle-income countries.

“The power of science and innovation can improve global health and development outcomes and dramatically reduce global inequity. Harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can improve the lives and wellbeing of women, children, and vulnerable communities everywhere,” says the foundation’s RFP.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Grand Challenges (GC) Partners (including GC South Africa and GC Brazil, with others to be confirmed) have jointly discussed the need for an equitable and responsible approach to the use of AI and specifically Large Language Models (LLMs) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This initial call by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation represents an early step towards identifying, nurturing, and catalyzing the creativity, energy, and skills that researchers, implementers, governments, and technical partners have demonstrated in solving specific challenges in their countries and regions through LLMs. 

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“We are optimistic that this will lead to more investment from the Gates Foundation, GC partners, and other funders, to ensure that this potentially transformative technology improves the lives and conditions of the most vulnerable communities around the world.”

The new venture has a $3 million total budget.

Improving well-being

Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman said AI brings “the potential to fundamentally alter the way people communicate, work, learn, and improve their well-being.”

“Earlier advances in technology have delivered uneven benefits in many parts of the world for a variety of reasons, but lack of access to innovation is the primary reason people in low-resource settings often do not see benefits in a timely, fair, and consistent fashion.”

Meanwhile, Zameer Brey, the Gates Foundation’s head of technology diffusion, told GeekWire that the foundation’s Grand Challenges in 2003 resulted in more than 3,600 grants in 118 countries.

“Having worked with many folks in these countries previously, there’s a lot of creativity, there’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot of great ideas, and sometimes providing some level of funding gets them to surface these ideas, test them, and build out the evidence base,” Brey said.

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