June 19, 2020

IDRC and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) are contributing up to CA$10 million towards a COVID-19 Global South Artificial Intelligence and Data Innovation Program. The Program aims to support multidisciplinary research to deepen understanding of how to develop and scale responsible (inclusive, rights-based, ethical, and sustainable) evidence-based artificial intelligence (AI) and data science approaches that support COVID-19 response and recovery in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Specifically, the program will aim to support research that is linked to government responses in the following areas:

  • Forecasting transmissions and reducing spread through policy and public health interventions;
  • Optimizing public health system responses for patient diagnosis, care, and management;
  • Mobilizing AI and data science to understand and support gender inclusive COVID-19 action;
  • Building trust and combatting mis- and dis-information around COVID-19;
  • Strengthening data systems and information sharing about COVID-19; and
  • Supporting transparent and responsible AI, data, and digital rights governance around COVID-19 and pandemic responses.

The multidisciplinary research funded through the call should aim to:

  • Deepen understanding of how to develop and scale responsible and evidence-based AI and data science approaches that support COVID-19 response and recovery in developing countries, and to ensure that those responses are gender responsive and culturally appropriate, community specific, and based on local needs and contexts;
  • Inform policies, both organizationally and nationally, that support and build trust in AI and data science responses to epidemics and that mitigate potential harms; and
  • Strengthen the capacity of health systems in developing countries to respond to epidemics using AI and data science techniques.


Research consortia and individual organizations may apply, with preference in selection for those based in Low and Middle Income countries.

For the purposes of this call, research consortia are defined as multidisciplinary research collaborations and networks made up of multiple organizations. Preference will be given to research consortia that demonstrate an ability to work across different contexts and directly with governments. Please note that more than 50% of organizations in a consortium must be based in low- and middle-income countries.

Eligible applicants are legal entities, such as accredited universities, non-governmental organizations, think tanks, or government-funded research organizations. Primary applicants must be a financially stable entity that can receive funds in a timely manner without being subject to lengthy approvals or country clearance. Private sector organizations may apply, although commercial applications and innovations are not eligible for funding. Consortia should identify a primary applicant institution that will receive and administer the funds because IDRC will not contract directly with additional organizations. The involvement and role(s) of consortia partners must be clearly articulated in the proposal. All organizations must demonstrate how they can conduct research design, planning, and execution in accordance to local laws and public health guidelines, including physical distancing.

More details

The program will support projects between CA$500K to CA$1.25 million for two years (2020–2022). The project funds will be disbursed and administered by IDRC on behalf of the partnership. The number of supported projects will depend on the number, quality, review, and ranking of eligible proposals as determined by the review process. The competitive selection will be undertaken through review from a panel of experts.

How to apply

The submission deadline for proposals is June 28, 2020 at 11:59pm EDT. All proposals must be submitted through the Survey Monkey portal. A peer review panel composed of technical experts will review and assess the proposals.

Full parameters, terms, and information about the call, including selection criteria, are available in the call document.

Notification of the technical selection of a proposal will be provided by July 25, 2020.

For more information, please click here.