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Combatting inequality with safe, responsible AI in the Indo-Pacific region

As a leading supporter of artificial intelligence (AI) research and innovation in the Global South, IDRC is expanding its AI for Development (AI4D) partnership with the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to low- and middle-income countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
Woman in a rickshaw in Manila testing SafeHer, an IDRC-supported transit safety app.
IDRC / David Hogsholt, Panos Pictures
Woman in Manila, the Philippines, testing SafeHer, an IDRC-supported transit safety app.

Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) announced the AI4D Indo-Pacific expansion at the G7 Summit in Italy in June 2024. Building on the AI4D partnership with FCDO announced at the UK Safety Summit in November 2023, it aims to ensure everyone can benefit from responsible AI.  

“Both Canada and the UK are world leaders when it comes to the safe and responsible use and governance of AI,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "Building on the success of our AI for Development partnership by extending the initiative to the Indo-Pacific opens new doors for collaboration in line with Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy. The Government of Canada is proud to partner with the UK to deepen global cooperation on safe and responsible AI, through Canada’s International Development Research Centre.”

The Indo-Pacific extension aims to combat inequality through responsible AI by: 

  • dedicating funding to post-graduate training in AI in public universities 
  • investing in inclusive digital public infrastructure, such as computing power and open-source datasets 
  • supporting innovators in safe, responsible and inclusive AI design for development 
  • fostering responsible AI governance so low- and middle-income countries can harness the potential of AI to solve development challenges while mitigating its risks.

“IDRC is proud to be backing Southern-led research and development of AI systems that are safe, inclusive, rights-based and promote sustainability,” said IDRC President Julie Delahanty. “This expanded partnership will foster the acceleration of responsible AI across Asia by learning from AI4D’s existing programming and innovations such as the SafeHER App built in the Philippines to enhance women’s safety on public transport or the Al device developed in South Africa to provide real-time data on air pollution levels.”

With the Indo-Pacific expansion comes an additional investment of CAD34.7 million from the UK and CAD6.9 million from IDRC. That brings the total funding for the AI4D initiative to CAD100 million.

IDRC first launched AI4D in 2020 with Sweden’s development agency and dozens of partners across Africa. The AI4D partnership with FCDO coordinates IDRC-supported research and innovations around the world to advance responsible AI in areas such as health, education, climate, governance and gender. The partnership with FCDO is one of many collaborations by Canada and the UK for international development.

“Building on strong Canada-UK collaboration on responsible AI to advance sustainable development, we’re pleased to see this partnership extend to the Indo-Pacific,” said Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of International Development. “Through Canada’s International Development Research Centre, this expanded partnership will bring forward the evidence and knowledge needed to seize the opportunities of AI while responding to the risks it presents in unique contexts around the world.”

For some of the research and innovation outputs from the AI4D program, explore the AI Observatory.