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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s AI Challenge Offers Funding for Innovative Solutions

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a new AI Challenge, providing funding of up to $100,000 for projects that explore novel ways to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) in overcoming everyday challenges faced by low- and middle-income countries.

According to the foundation’s Request for Proposals (RFP), “The power of science and innovation can enhance global health and development outcomes while significantly reducing global inequities. By harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we can improve the lives and well-being of women, children, and vulnerable communities worldwide.”

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with Grand Challenges (GC) Partners, including GC South Africa and GC Brazil, with others soon to be confirmed, has recognized the necessity for an equitable and responsible approach to utilizing AI, particularly Large Language Models (LLMs), in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This initial call for proposals by the foundation marks an initial step towards identifying, nurturing, and catalyzing the creativity, expertise, and skills demonstrated by researchers, implementers, governments, and technical partners in addressing specific challenges within their respective countries and regions using LLMs.

Improving well-being

Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman said AI brings “the potential to fundamentally alter the way people communicate, work, learn, and improve their well-being.”

“Earlier advances in technology have delivered uneven benefits in many parts of the world for a variety of reasons, but lack of access to innovation is the primary reason people in low-resource settings often do not see benefits in a timely, fair, and consistent fashion.”

Meanwhile, Zameer Brey, the Gates Foundation’s head of technology diffusion, told GeekWire that the foundation’s Grand Challenges in 2003 resulted in more than 3,600 grants in 118 countries.

“Having worked with many folks in these countries previously, there’s a lot of creativity, there’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot of great ideas, and sometimes providing some level of funding gets them to surface these ideas, test them, and build out the evidence base,” Brey said.