The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has teamed up with York University, in Canada to undertake an artificial intelligence (AI) project that will be used to tackle the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Africa.
The project will be carried out by the Africa-Canada Artificial Intelligence and Public Health Data Modelling Consortium, which will be co-chaired by York University Professor Jianhong Wu and Wits Professor Bruce Mellado.
The project is a predictive modelling and forecasting of the transmission of Covid-19 in Africa using AI and builds on a Covid-19 dashboard developed by Mellado’s Institute for Collider Particle Physics, transmission models and simulation technologies developed at Wits and York University.
The International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) has given the consortium a grant of $1.25-million to carry out the project.
“Particle physics harnesses large amounts of data and uses AI to understand the data. These skills are transferrable to the problem solving of complex systems, such as the modelling of the Covid-19 pandemic or future crises. AI through machine learning provides a unique suite of tools and methodologies that allows analysts to learn from it. This is essential in solving complex modelling problems,” explains Mellado.
York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton said York’s knowledge in disease modelling, global health, AI and emergency management will be used in collaboration with AI and modelling expertise in Africa and practical skills and sensitivity that only local organisations can provide.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics in the Faculty of Science at York and member of the National Covid-19 Modelling Rapid Response Task Force Professor Jude Kong will be the Canadian Principal Investigator.
He explained that working with African organisations will allow for the development of Covid-19 models and simulations that are relevant to specific cities and nearby areas.
“This will give municipal and national health authorities, and policy-makers from across Africa the practical tools that they need to suppress subsequent waves of infections or mitigate their impact. It will enable us to look at the effectiveness of public health interventions to determine if a particular intervention is appropriate, equitable, feasible and cost-efficient,” Kong said.