Business intelligence, analytics and healthcare are among the leading uses of artificial intelligence (AI) in low and middle countries, a new report by the GSMA has found.
The report, titled Artificial Intelligence and Start-Ups in Low – and Middle-Income Countries: Progress, Promises and Perils, was published by the GSMA in late October and can be downloaded here.
The study examines the current and potential use of AI in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) across Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and South East Asia. It does this by analysing the business models of companies that use home-grown AI solutions, and also looks at sectors and countries that are receiving the most funding.
The report maps a sample of 450 startups by sector alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and, based on interviews with AI experts in LMICs — including AI Media Group CEO and AI Expo Africa co-founder Dr Nick Bradshaw — explores trends and challenges in business models, barriers to innovation, and the ethical and responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI).
It cautions 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. AI 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,” the report’s authors add.
The top AI use cases identified by the report in LMIC countries includes:
- Administration and business processes
- Cities and infrastructure
- Climate change
- Disaster management
- Government and public services
- Finance and micro lending
Interesting insights from the study on Africa are:
- Nigeria and South Africa were the next two most represented nations in the sample with 42 and 38 use cases, respectively
- In terms of sector verticals using AI for social good, healthcare , and food and agriculture emerged the top two verticals in Sub-Saharan Africa. This while in North Africa healthcare, and retail and consumer goods emerged the top categories
- SDGs 8 and 9 — sustainable economic growth and employment, respectively — emerged the top categories in Sub-Saharan Africa, covering a wide range of financial services, as well as general business services that improve business intelligence, operations and efficiency
- The study found few educational innovations that rely on AI in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the report’s authors explaining that this could have been due to lack of high-quality and digitised data, as well as challenging internet infrastructure
- In North Africa, SDG 8 and 9 — sustainable economic growth and employment, respectively — and healthcare (SDG 3) emerged as leaders
- The use of AI decision management tools is disproportionately higher in Sub-Saharan Africa than it is in Asia