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How Startup Companies Are Using Artificial Intelligence in LMICs

By Guest Writer on August 25, 2021

artificial intelligence LMIC

Around the world, artificial intelligence is automating functions and making new services possible with breakthroughs in cheap computing power, cloud computing services, growth in big data and advancements in machine learning and related processes.

AI can radically alter and improve the way governments, organisations and individuals provide services, access information and improve their planning and operations.

Artificial Intelligence in Startup Companies

Artificial Intelligence and Start-Ups in Low- and Middle-Income Countries examines the current use of AI in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) across Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and South and Southeast Asia.

Artificial Intelligence and Start-Ups in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Progress, Promises and Perils from the GSMA maps a sample of 450 start-ups by sector in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, based on interviews with AI experts in LMICs, we explore trends and challenges in business models, barriers to innovation and the ethical and responsible use of AI.

Artificial Intelligence Use Cases

Types of Startups Using Artificial Intelligence

Business intelligence and analytics emerged as a clear leader in the use of AI, as it captures a wide range of business services solutions, from accounting and decision making to customer service.

Healthcare is also a leader and benefits from AI solutions in many ways, from sophisticated diagnosis and treatment options to hospital management systems, personalised lifestyle change recommendations and healthy eating habits.

Food and agriculture, financial services, education and retail and consumer goods followed these sectors. Food and agriculture employs a range of AI-based services, including services for identifying and remedying crop diseases, linking producers more effectively to buyers and markets and helping farmers maximise crop yields based on climatic and soil conditions.

India was the most represented country in our sample. The country accounted for over 40 per cent of the sample (180 use cases), indicating a high level of innovation and AI uptake in the country. Far more cases were identified in India, but were excluded due to limited alignment with development outcomes, apart from general economic development.

Types of Artificial Intelligence in Startups

Deep learning platforms are the most commonly used, followed by AI decision management processes. Both are used by start-ups seeking to gain insights from big data and gain a greater edge in meeting the needs of customers and responding to customer feedback more effectively.

Computer vision is the third most used capability. Linked to deep learning, this is often involved in image recognition processes in diagnostics, such as in healthcare or agriculture. It is also important for tools that use a mobile phone to identify products or read text for persons with visual impairment.

Virtual agents are also prevalent, such as chatbots that are used for a wide range of applications, from customer service to advice on health-related issues. Examples include the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) Frontier Technology Livestreaming (FTL) pilot for reproductive healthcare and Springster by the organisation Girl Effect.

Natural language processing is another important AI use case in the sample. Only a handful of examples used AI-optimised hardware, RPA and speech generation. There were very few examples of biometrics in the sample, but a notable one is M-PESA’s secure personal identification process implemented by Vodafone. This allows persons with disabilities to use their voice as a biometric password, facilitating greater access to financial services and more autonomy in how they use the service.

Not All Startups Use AI for Good

Artificial Intelligence and Start-Ups in Low- and Middle-Income Countries concludes that while AI has the potential to achieve social good, positive outcomes are not guaranteed. There are many fundamental questions about data protection, ingrained bias as a result of poor data collection methods, social inclusion and the responsible use of AI.

Artificial Intelligence enables new technologies to improve efficiency and productivity, but it may also deepen inequalities, hindering the achievement of the UN SDGs. Since increased use of data introduces further privacy and ethical concerns, AI solutions should be guided by sound privacy and ethical principles.

A lightly edited excerpt from Artificial Intelligence and Start-Ups in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Progress, Promises and Perils by Akanksha Sharma, GSMA; Sam Ajadi, Zipline; Andreas Beavor, UrbanEmerge

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One Comment to “How Startup Companies Are Using Artificial Intelligence in LMICs”

  1. Brigiita says:

    AI is the Future of Technologies