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‘Poor, developing countries will benefit from AI’
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DUBAI: Poor and developing countries will greatly benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) in the field of healthcare, according to four delegates at the “1st International Conference on the Role of Artificial Intelligence on Healthcare and Medical Education” held in Dubai on Wednesday.

The full-day event had delegates from the UAE, US, UK, Switzerland, India and Australia representing the information communications technology, medical/health/education/insurance and media sectors.

It was Deakin University-School of Medicine Programme Evaluation specialist/certified medical informatician (Australia) Dr Sandeep Reddy who mentioned in his lecture “The Role of Human Clinicians in an Automated Health Service” that poor countries would be largely benefiting from AI.

Reddy neither gave reasons nor cited examples.

He said the root of AI began in the 1960s.

He defined AI as the “human intelligence established by machines” and that while “intelligence is a combination of knowledge, logic and reasoning, there is (therefore) nothing artificial about it.” Reddy continued to argue that while AI is the machine performance over the “repetitive tasks of human beings, AI has limitations (there are other challenges to be confronted in AI) and so AI can never replace human clinicians.”

The event was organised by the Thumbay Technologies of the UAE-based Thumbay Group as its director Akram Moideen Thumbay said the growing needs of the region and beyond regarding AI have to be addressed.

PwC partner and Healthcare Services Leader-Middle East’s Dr Tim Wilson implied strong political will is the biggest determinant in terms of AI investments regardless of a country’s socio-economic status.

He illustrated it by bringing up the case of Rwanda’s president who played around the attachment of his countrymen to their mobile phones and channelled access to healthcare through this personal gadget.

Wilson responded to The Gulf Today question raised on the floor after he lectured on “What Doctor? How Artificial Intelligence is Shaping Healthcare.”

The question was about how he sees poor and developing countries or governments make AI a part of their ecosystems when these have scarce resources to even provide the basics of their citizens, unless public-private collaborations are concretised and if ever businessmen embed in their respective industries social responsibility resulting in investments and infrastructures.

On the sidelines, UAE-based Ver 2 (Digital Medicine) chief executive officer (CEO) Brian de Francesca and Prognica (AI-powered healthcare company) founder/CEO Khalid Shaikh approached this reporter to air their views.

De Francesca claimed that based on his long work experience in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia and Djibouti, people have become accepting of AI technology because for one, the steep cost to study medicine has become a detriment for the aspirations of becoming medical and healthcare practitioners or physicians.

“There are only a few radiologists in Ethiopia and Djibouti because it is expensive to study there compared to the US where there are a lot of radiologists.

“The same is true in India, there, people (hold close to their hearts) their mobile phones,” said Shaikh, adding that in far-flung and depressed areas of the country, people even could not even have the personal consultations with doctors or anyone from the medical/health sectors.

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