Kenya: Another AI experiment

Kenyan mothers-to-be get the healthcare message | Financial Times

In Kenya — which has the world’s 15th-highest maternal mortality rate — 1m women have registered to exchange pregnancy-related questions with a team of health advisers via a free, artificial intelligence-powered SMS service called Prompts. Run by Jacaranda Health, a non-profit healthcare group, Prompts uses AI to triage messages and ensure that “danger signs”, including bleeding and loss of baby movement, receive the fastest responses, such as advice to seek emergency care.

I am not sure about the claims. There’s no harm in signing up and scaling. This came in through a post in Financial Times, and there are all indications that it is a paid post. The claims remain unverified, but I have included the write up because it uses SMS and “AI in the backend”.

“The level of confidence in the AI getting the answer right is around 95 per cent [for critical danger signs], but when it’s potentially life-threatening we don’t want to take that chance,” Pearson says. “That’s why we keep the human between the patient and the AI. It’s still a human-first system. The AI is serving up a potential canned response. The human agent then checks that it matches the real intent of the question.”

Hmm. It’s not really AI. You still need “human moderators” to understand the intent. They may use the automated systems to respond, and then use some sort of dictionary response to filter out the words and assign risk categorization. It’s not rocket science.

Ah I see. Read this:

Jacaranda is almost entirely funded by philanthropic groups such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pfizer Foundation, as well as the US Agency for International Development. This year, Jacaranda expects to receive $6.5m from such donors, up from $714,000 in 2018. The organisation aims to reach 1.5m women through Prompts by the end of 2022 and have an active userbase of 800,000.

I won’t lose my sleep over this.

It is precisely these health interventions which refuse to make any sense. It isn’t AI scaling up and providing “healthcare”. It is SMS based “hack”, which is the cheapest option to allow users to scale up. The aggregated phone numbers can be used to cross-sell other services. I wonder why did Financial Times need to report this!

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