Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is funding two new research projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the projects focuses on artificial intelligence (AI) and its possible role in pandemic public health decision-making in several countries across Africa, while the other project focuses on investigating risk factors contributing to COVID-19 infections.
IDRC is funding AI for decision-making projects and working with research teams in Botswana, Nigeria, Eswatini, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa to develop data-powered official dashboards, which are viewed by more than 20,000 people daily. Researchers use the findings to inform COVID-19 policies and vaccine roll-out strategies, often working directly with policymakers on the ground. They also use findings to support communication strategies that address misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, prevention, and treatments to improve the public's knowledge about the pandemic. The project is co-funded by Sweden and is part of the Global South AI4COVID Program, which funds and facilitates multidisciplinary research focused on evidence-based AI approaches to support COVID-19 responses in low- and middle-income countries.
Furthermore, the IDRC is funding a project through McMaster University’s Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) to study the causes of COVID-19 infections. To date, the team has collected information from 30,000 adults in 19 countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Zimbabwe) on five continents. Early results of the study are showing that obesity is one of the most important risk factors contributing to a COVID-19 infection and that the pandemic had the greatest financial impact on people in low-income countries. The study is projected to continue for an additional year at least, depending on the course of the pandemic.