The Case for Globalizing Fairness: A Mixed Methods Study on Colonialism, AI, and Health in Africa

Mercy Asiedu, Awa Dieng, Alexander Haykel, Negar Rostamzadeh, Stephen Pfohl, Chirag Nagpal, Maria Nagawa, Abigail Oppong, Sanmi Koyejo, Katherine Heller
Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence (cs.AI), Computers and Society (cs.CY)
2024-03-05 00:00:00
With growing application of machine learning (ML) technologies in healthcare, there have been calls for developing techniques to understand and mitigate biases these systems may exhibit. Fair-ness considerations in the development of ML-based solutions for health have particular implications for Africa, which already faces inequitable power imbalances between the Global North and South.This paper seeks to explore fairness for global health, with Africa as a case study. We conduct a scoping review to propose axes of disparities for fairness consideration in the African context and delineate where they may come into play in different ML-enabled medical modalities. We then conduct qualitative research studies with 672 general population study participants and 28 experts inML, health, and policy focused on Africa to obtain corroborative evidence on the proposed axes of disparities. Our analysis focuses on colonialism as the attribute of interest and examines the interplay between artificial intelligence (AI), health, and colonialism. Among the pre-identified attributes, we found that colonial history, country of origin, and national income level were specific axes of disparities that participants believed would cause an AI system to be biased.However, there was also divergence of opinion between experts and general population participants. Whereas experts generally expressed a shared view about the relevance of colonial history for the development and implementation of AI technologies in Africa, the majority of the general population participants surveyed did not think there was a direct link between AI and colonialism. Based on these findings, we provide practical recommendations for developing fairness-aware ML solutions for health in Africa.
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