Call for Proposals: Organizations (Hubs) Managing Regional Innovation Networks for Responsible Artificial Intelligence to Improve Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health (SRMH) Outcomes


nly proposals that meet the eligibility criteria will be considered.

This Call for Proposals is open to select individual organizations or consortia headquartered in the respective region (MENA, LAC and Asia) with preference given for organizations in LMICs (see Annex 3  for a complete list).

Note that this Call for Proposals is not open to individuals or government ministries and agencies, but it is open to public research institutes and public university centres, labs and departments.

This Call is purposely limited to selected institutions or consortia, and IDRC reserves the right to reject proposals from institutions not directly targeted.

The following eligibility criteria also apply:

  • Have a proven record of working in relevant region (MENA, LAC or Asia) and supporting research on the design, development and scaling of AI and SRMH innovations in these contexts.
  • Internal expertise in AI, SRMH innovations and health systems strengthening from at least one partner institution or demonstrated ability to collaborate on these issues via a consortium.
  • Ability to work in English and the working languages of the region (e.g., Spanish for LAC) at a minimum. Other languages are considered an asset.
  • Ability to transfer funds to other countries within the region.

Applicants must have independent legal status (or “legal personality”) and be capable of contracting in their own right and name, receiving and administering funds, and have authority to direct proposed project activities. Applicants must be able to demonstrate legal status through written documentation. Legal status will only be reviewed if and when applicants are selected following technical selection.

In additional to standalone institutions, transdisciplinary consortia are encouraged to apply. Consortia may consist of up to three (3) organizations. In case of a consortium, the proposal needs to provide a rationale explaining why the consortium has come together to implement this innovation research and describe the role and added value provided by each member organization. Consortia must describe the governance and coordination arrangements they will use to produce high quality work and support fair and equitable partnerships.

In case of a consortium application, individual members can be based in different countries and the non-leading members may be based in countries other than those included in Annex 3. However, the leading institution can only be based in an eligible country (see Annex 3). IDRC will enter into a contractual agreement with the designated lead institution only, and that institution will need to specify their arrangements with other consortia partners within their budgets (either as sub-contractors or sub-grantees).

How to Apply: 

Background and rationale

The use of AI is showing promise in transforming how health systems are planned and health services are delivered across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) today. Responsibly designed and implemented AI has the potential to contribute to improved global health outcomes. In the area of SRMH outcomes, AI applications have the potential to strengthen point-of-care services, inform diagnoses and provide personalized information based on real-time analysis of relevant data. For example, AI models and applications have been developed to support the early detection of pre-eclampsia and improve accuracy of HIV testing.

In lower-income countries, indicators for sexual, reproductive and maternal health — referred to by some more generally as sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) — are not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Inadequate SRMH service provision has been linked with unintended pregnancies — including teen pregnancies — early and forced marriage, complications related to unsafe abortions, gender-based violence and increases in sexually transmitted infections. This is particularly pronounced for vulnerable groups such as adolescents, people living with disabilities, refugees and internally displaced populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on SRMH outcomes such as access to essential services and support for survivors of gender-based violence. Gender inequality, the focus of SDG5, is a central challenge for women and girls to overcome, especially in matters related to sexuality and reproduction.

Despite the promise of AI to improve SRMH outcomes, there are important ethical, legal and social risks that need to be appropriately managed, mitigated and governed. For example, harmful biases can be integrated into algorithms, which can translate into biased public health messaging, diagnoses and treatment protocols. Furthermore, much of the data required to develop AI models to tackle SRMH challenges are non-representative or inaccessible. The current increase in demand for health-focused AI solutions in LMICs is not commensurate with the investments being made to strengthen health systems, credible data, skilled individuals and requisite computing infrastructure.

Key objectives

Through this Call, up to three hubs will be set up and managed, one each in MENA, LAC and Asia. These hubs will be managed by a regionally based organization or consortium of organizations. Each of the hubs will be tasked with establishing, managing and supporting implementation research networks in their respective region. Setting up the network should consist of running an open call to select implementation research projects in the corresponding region working on or researching AI innovations for SRMH, with a typical approach being to select six to ten projects. It is expected that the selected projects will represent linguistic, gender and geographic diversity across the respective region; diversity across relevant areas of application of AI to SRMH; and diversity of relevant involved stakeholders (e.g., university researchers, start-ups, ministries of health, research-oriented think-tanks, consultancies, labs or community groups). The selected innovation research projects will receive funding and support as sub-grants for an implementation research project for a duration of at least 18 months.

The general objective of each of the three innovation research networks is to advance SRMH in MENA, LAC and Asia through implementation research promoting responsible development and deployment of AI innovations. By responsible, we are referring to AI innovations that are ethical, respect human rights, inclusive and contribute to environmental sustainability.

Specific objectives are to:

  1. Strengthen the body of multidisciplinary evidence emerging from LMIC-based researchers on how to develop and scale responsible AI innovations for improving SRMH in MENA, LAC or Asia.
  2. Build innovation research capacities in MENA, LAC or Asia to develop, deploy and scale responsible AI applications in “real world” settings to improve SRMH outcomes.
  3. Deepen understanding and informed practices to enhance gender and social inclusion and limit related biases in the design, implementation and use of AI solutions for SRMH.
  4. Influence AI and SRMH policies, practices and efforts to scale up and/or commercialize responsible AI solutions.

The primary responsibilities of the hubs include:

  • Developing and managing an open call for proposals process to select innovation research projects focused on using AI to improve SRMH outcomes;
  • Strengthening how gender equality and inclusion (GEI) and intersectional analysis are addressed in the innovation research projects, and ensure each research project team has the appropriate multidisciplinary experience required;
  • Supporting networking among selected research teams to strengthen knowledge exchange;
  • Harvesting and synthesizing outcomes related to health outcomes, innovation processes, strengthening GEI and scaling strategies;
  • Facilitating equitable engagement of women in research and leadership roles.

For more information, please contact Jill Sherman, International Research Facilitator, at

External Deadline: 
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Funding Source: 
Funding Level: