In lower-income countries, indicators for sexual, reproductive, and maternal health are lagging relative to other health indicators. For example, the levels of maternal mortality and access to contraception are generally off pace to meet Sustainable Development Goals to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 per 100,000 live births and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic takes center stage, there is an urgent need to scale further innovation and solutions for improving maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights while strengthening health systems for integrated and sustainable health services.  

Digital technologies, including artificial intelligence applications, have demonstrated encouraging potential for enhancing the delivery of maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights information and services. However, significant concerns remain about the potential harms and risks of using digital technology in this sector. The main objective of this project is to establish a research hub whose aim is to advance maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights while strengthening health systems in sub-Saharan Africa through the responsible development and deployment of AI innovations. Responsible AI innovations are defined as those that are ethical, inclusive, and equitable, respect human rights, and contribute to environmental sustainability. 

We are happy to announce that this hub will be set up and managed by three organisations in Africa; Infectious Disease Institute at Makerere University, Makerere University AI Lab and Sunbird AI.

“We are living on the cusp of enormous potential for technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We hope that this hub will open the door to new opportunities for innovation in artificial intelligence (AI), centred around the greatest need in Maternal, Sexual and Reproductive health (MSRH) on the continent. By bringing together policymakers, academics, entrepreneurs and health workers in the two fields of AI and MSRH, we hope to bring about a common understanding and greater good, by exploring possibilities not explored before. We are excited about the opportunity for ethical impact in MSRH through this hub. There is much for all of us to learn from each other, and much we can achieve together.”

Dr. Rosalind Parkes Ratanshi, Director Academy for Health Innovation Uganda

The hub on AI for sexual, reproductive, and maternal health in Africa is complimentary to four similar hubs on gender and inclusion, climate change, agriculture, and education that are being developed by IDRC’s AI for Development Africa initiative. It will identify, validate, and document priority themes, strengthen the capacity of African innovators, researchers, and policymakers, and increase and strengthen the number of homegrown AI innovations in maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights while strengthening health systems in Africa. 

RELATED : Innovation Hub on AI for Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health in Africa

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This project is part of the innovation stream of the AI for Development Africa (AI4D Africa) program, which is dedicated to a future where Africans across all regions create and use AI to lead healthier, happier and greener lives. AI4D Africa is co-funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and IDRC. Click here for more information