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Government urged to invest in AI development to improve healthcare in Ghana

June 20, 2024
Government urged to invest in AI development to improve healthcare in Ghana

Prof Samuel Kojo Kwofie, Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, , has urged the government to set aside a percentage of the country's budget for development. 

He said such an investment would enhance healthcare, close the healthcare gap between the rural and urban communities and reduce poverty. 

“Government, corporate institutions and funding agencies need to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) training, research and technology development to improve health and alleviate poverty,” he said. 

Prof Kwofie made the call during a virtual discussion on the topic of “Artificial Intelligence in Health and Poverty Alleviation.”

The US Embassy in Ghana, in partnership with the American Spaces and Mobile Web Ghana, organised the session.

Prof Kwofie, who also works as a bioinformatician at the University of Ghana's West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP), explained that his research group has merged artificial intelligence (AI) with considerable biomedical data to create several open-source applications, such as TubPred and EBOLApred.

EBOLApred and TubPred support the search for new cures for diseases, cancers, and the Ebola virus. Another noteworthy advancement was the creation of BuDb, the first Buruli ulcer drug discovery database.

In collaboration with Prof. Michael Wilson at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and other researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, they submitted a patent application for Mycolactone, a potential treatment.

His team's ongoing research also involves developing applications for regenerative AI and diagnosis using medical images.

Prof. Kwofie said the significant investment in artificial intelligence had backed the achievement of the (SDGs).

To buttress his assertions, he highlighted key results from his research and publications on AI and health, mentioning robust infrastructure, supportive policies, and the establishment of AI ethics review committees as a comprehensive strategy for maximizing AI's potential in Africa.

Prof. Kwofie called for the establishment of a National Data Centre and a West African network for data-driven AI applications, as well as the creation of a National AI Network (NAIN) with centres of excellence across various institutions.

Among the other key points, he raised was the necessity of training, scholarships, and efficient intellectual property and technology transfer mechanisms as vital success factors, as well as the development of an AI technology ecosystem that includes incubators, start-ups, and a National Centre for High-Performance Computing (NCHPC).

Prof. Kwofie said the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has estimated that artificial intelligence (AI) could boost the continent's GDP by up to $1.2 trillion by 2030, or 5.6 per cent more than current levels.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has projected that global AI investment will reach $200 billion by 2025.

Given Africa's unique linguistic terrain and varying levels of digital illiteracy, he called for culturally and contextually appropriate AI solutions, noting the enormous financial opportunities within the industry with potential benefits for poverty alleviation.

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