The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has joined forces with Fondation pour l’institut de hautes études internationales et du développement to catapult the health sector in the 4IR sphere. The two institutions recently signed a strategic agreement with the latter acting through The International Digital Health and Artificial Intelligence Research Collaborative (I-DAIR).
Harnessing latest technologies
I-DAIR is based in Geneva, Switzerland and is an innovative global health platform that facilitates ‘inclusive, impactful and responsible research into digital health and artificial intelligence (AI) for health’. Its mission and objectives dovetail with those of UJ. Since Professor Tshilidzi Marwala took over as vice-chancellor and principal, UJ has been re-positioned to be the leading academic institution in Africa that specialises in the latest 4IR technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).
Realising UN’s goals
Both UJ and I-DAIR share a common interest in contributing to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal #3 on ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’. Their intention is to collaborate and co-operate in activities and programmes which contribute to the realisation of this UN goal.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the significance of technology to empower medical practitioners to predict and deal effectively with outbreaks of similar deadly viruses in future. Digital medicine and other innovations such as telemedicine, remote monitoring and related diagnostic devices have not only changed the face of medicine but have also contributed immensely to the advancement of the health sector.
Centre of excellence
In terms of the agreement, UJ will be the South African Hub Lead and will convene a consortium for an I-DAIR hub in South Africa. The hub is envisaged to attract and create a critical mass of young researchers working in the areas of digital health and artificial intelligence (AI) for health. In addition, the hub would also act as a centre of excellence for research and capacity development.
Professor Rodny-Gumede, senior director for the division for internationalisation at UJ said about the collaboration: “We are proud to partner with I-DAIR to contribute to the success of UN Sustainable Goal #3 and are certain that our strategic partnership will lead to other ground breaking research in the areas of digital health and AI for health.”
Senior UJ academics and experts in the health and artificial intelligence have been roped in to drive the agreement which resonates with the university’s position as the leading force of the 4IR. They include Professor Babu Paul, director of the Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS), who is a specialist in artificial intelligence at UJ as well as Professor Habib Noorbhai, co-director of the biomedical engineering and healthcare technology (BEAHT) research centre and expert in health sciences at UJ.
Changes through the digital age
“UJ and I-DAIR are both driving forces in the areas of artificial intelligence and digital health, and our shared commitment to improve global health and wellbeing using advances in technology provide a strong platform for a successful partnership,” said Professor Babu Paul. “Change is inevitable. Healthcare has evolved and adapted through the electronic ages. It is only a matter of time before health adopts changes through the digital age. Now is as good a time as any to streamline and adopt such standards for the upliftment of sustainable healthcare through AI in the 4IR,” said Professor Habib Noorbhai.