Digital technologies provide the possibility to boost innovation and have emerged as an important tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the world, organisations are working towards harnessing the benefits promised by digital technologies such as AI.
MSc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (IME) alumna Aisha Aurakzai - Team Lead AI in healthcare, National Center of Artificial Intelligence, UET Peshawar - recently joined the Global Challenges, Emerging Technologies and Governance unit to talk about how their work in AI is helping spur innovation.
Harnessing the Power of AI to provide affordable healthcare for everyone
In her talk, Aisha asked whether developing countries can harness the power of AI. She approached this from the perspective of developing countries because developed countries already have the resources and a well-developed infrastructure with large companies working in the field of AI.
“When it comes to developing countries, we are resource-strapped in regions and it feels like AI could be the solution to our problems, but can we actually make use of this?"
After finishing her MSc IME degree Aisha returned to Pakistan. Her dissertation was about innovations in humanitarian organizations and after working in humanitarian aid she moved into education sector digitisation, and finally healthcare AI.
“What I can say is that in these fields, the knowledge that you're gaining from the MSc IME degree is quite useful It can be applied to any and all domains, which I did I ended it in three different domains. You can easily adapt what you're learning on the programme into that field.”
Digital health, while still in its infancy, is growing steadily and has a promising future in Pakistan
Coming to the topic of AI in the healthcare sector Aisha explained: “The healthcare sector in Pakistan is sadly very weak, the distribution of healthcare service is highly uneven. Since the pandemic started, there has been an increasing demand for digital solutions, digital services and we have had a very sharp boom in telemedicine.”
“However, while 92.7% of the population own a mobile phone, only one-third own smartphones; so again, only a limited number of people are able to benefit from these digital health care solutions.”
But there are many other hurdles, such as the small number of local companies working in AI, low data literacy, and importantly the lack of data. “Digital diagnostics relies on feeding digital data into the AI model, but if you don't have it it is difficult. Currently, our models are based on international, freely available data. These are not appropriate to model local health demands.”
Aisha also spoke about many of the topics discussed on the MSc IME course highlighting weak legal and regulatory systems which make adoption of new innovations problematic. It was helpful to see how the topics that are discussed theoretically, played out in the case of Pakistan.
Aisha's final words
“When you start applying for jobs, just be you. Don't be afraid of showing your passion or interest in the work. If they can see the genuineness in your communication, in your application speaking through, that really helps.”
“If you are interested in AI you can work in start-ups, you can support them in funding, marketing and business development areas. And if you are interested in joining a lab like me, you could support them in funding applications too.”