Introducing Winners of USAID's Equitable AI Challenge

Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are a dual-edged sword: they promise tremendous benefits for international development, but have also demonstrated instances of bias and harm, often resulting from inequitable design, use, and impact. Recognizing that AI technologies could cause gender biases, USAID urgently looked for innovative and creative approaches to address gender-inequitable outcomes by launching the Equitable AI Challenge in Fall 2021. This challenge, implemented through DAI’s Digital Frontiers, sought to support approaches that increase the accountability and transparency of AI systems in global development contexts, in order to produce more gender-equitable results. Dozens of competitors submitted approaches related to the prevention, identification, or monitoring of bias and harm against women and gender-nonconforming people—reflecting the larger goals of USAID’s Digital Strategy, the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, and the recently launched USAID AI Action Plan.

USAID chose a total of 28 diverse semi-finalists to attend a three-week virtual co-creation event, held between February 14 and March 1, 2022, which brought together select technology firms, startups, small, and medium enterprises, civil society organizations, and researchers from around the world. The co-creation focused on the need for close collaboration between the public and private sector, which allows for diverse perspectives, local solutions, and partnerships to form among AI technology developers, investors, donors, and users. With a desire to address AI’s most critical issues, including bias and inequity within AI systems, participants were encouraged to collaborate on solutions, identify partnerships, and strengthen their proposals — all while forming a larger community of practice.

In April 2022, USAID selected four proposals to receive grant awards to implement their approaches in alignment with the challenge’s objectives. Dive in and learn more about the winners of the Equitable AI Challenge as their work gets underway in the implementation phase!