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Jacaranda launches a Google.org Fellowship aimed at advancing AI-driven support in low-resourced settings

A mother checks her phone for SMS messages from Jacaranda Health_s digital health service PROMPTS
A mother checks her phone for SMS messages from Jacaranda Health_s digital health service PROMPTS

This week, we partnered up with Google.org to launch a new Fellowship aimed at transforming the potential of Large Language Models (LLMs) for low-resourced communities across Sub Saharan Africa. Six Google technical experts were selected for the six month program, which offers the chance to apply practical skills in research, machine learning, and software engineering, amongst others, to solve AI challenges in the ‘real world’. 

Why this Fellowship? Why Now?

The Fellowship comes at a critical turning point in the global AI story. Despite a rapidly-evolving landscape of AI technologies, few have been adequately adapted to low-resourced settings, limiting the potential of lifesaving AI-driven initiatives in sectors like health and education. Jacaranda is on a mission to change this by developing and deploying multi-language LLMs that small local teams across Africa can easily customize to their contexts and use cases.  

The Fellowship follows a recent $1.4m grant from Google.org to help Jacaranda advance the field of generative AI, ensuring every mother accesses the right information and support during and after pregnancy. Jacaranda’s digital health navigator, PROMPTS, currently uses AI to engage and provide personalized support to new and expecting mothers across Kenya via SMS. More recently, the organization has borrowed learnings from this work to develop new, open-source models that not only open the door for pan-African PROMPTS scale, but also could support other implementers improve their own AI-driven services.

Driving the accuracy, scaleability, and impact of our AI-enabled services

Between April and October, the six Fellows will work alongside Jacaranda’s teams to improve the accuracy, efficiency and scale potential of Jacaranda’s technology to serve mothers across Kenya, and expand into new African countries. This includes testing how to leverage AI and large, anonymized datasets to offer personalized support for high-risk mothers and babies, designing frameworks to manage biases related to gender and economics in Large Language Models, building the infrastructure to rapidly adapt PROMPTS to new contexts, and helping other implementers ‘plug and play’ the AI models in other sectors and use cases. 

“Having this support from Google is critical for our innovation journey at Jacaranda. The work we have planned with support from these Fellows will give us the springboard to significantly improve maternal and newborn health outcomes through the power of AI, and push the boundaries of what’s possible in healthcare.”  – Jay Patel, Director of Technology, Jacaranda Health

Jacaranda, with support from the Fellows, aims to push the boundaries of what language models can achieve, ensuring they are more accurate, fair, inclusive and scalable across different languages and contexts. 

“Providing mothers with the support they need during pregnancy is a powerful example of how AI can be used to help more people at a wider scale,” said Agnes Gathaiya, Google’s Country Director for East Africa. “We’re proud to have Google employees help Jacaranda develop new technical solutions to drive their mission.”

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