Low and middle-income states take AI adoption to new level

By Oliver Freeman
It has become apparent that low-and middle-income nations are soon to adopt higher levels of AI-enabled health tech than their wealthier counterparts...

According to the ‘Reimagining Global Health through Artificial Intelligence: The Roadmap to AI Maturity’ report, low and middle-income countries have been adopting newly-founded technologies such as e-banking and blockchain at a far faster rate than high-income nations, in recent years. This isn’t too surprising, given that so-called “third-world countries” like those found across Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region feature simultaneously the most poverty, but also the highest level of tech investment and the highest number of technological hubs. Not only that but also soaring figures in terms of new Internet and smart device users on a daily basis. 

The report highlights that health-based technologies will most likely follow the same trend, especially during a time when the creation and adoption of digital solutions are being accelerated, courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the demand that it has created. With an increased need for isolation and less face-to-face contact, healthcare providers are in desperate need for viable solutions to avoid risking any further spread of illness ─ AI-enabled diagnostic technologies can bridge that gap. As a result, it’s expected that the market for solutions will experience exponential growth in the coming years. 

“Many countries are ill-prepared to address a newly emerging disease such a COVID-19 in addition to the existing burden of infectious diseases and the ever-increasing tide of chronic diseases,” said Dr Ann Aerts, Head of the Novartis Foundation and Co-Chair of the Broadband Commission Working Group on Digital and AI in Health. “Digital technology and AI are essential enables to re-engineer health systems from being reactive to proactive, predictive, and even preventive. 

“We have to develop a sustainable ecosystem for AI in health in the counties where it is most desperately needed [...] this has to happen while ensuring fairness and access for all. As health systems build back after the pandemic, technological innovation has to be a core part of the agenda.” 

In many societies across the globe, supportive AI health tools could have an absolutely crucial role in the toolkits of nurses and community health workers; the tech-enhanced tools can help them diagnose and treat illnesses that would traditionally be dealt with by doctors. This will be an excellent development in nations, like those across the Southeast Asian region of the world, where large chunks of the population in rural areas lack access to surgeries and hospitals, and where there are shortages of healthcare workers. 

UNICEF has, in recent times, developed its own AI-powered program which should help to reduce the social and economic burden of outbreaks through target population health measures. “Its Magic Box program both predicts when outbreaks are likely and allows health systems to reorganise their resources, alert health workers and launch public health campaigns, so they can respond better and faster to emergencies.”


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