Public Health Calls for/with AI: An Ethnographic Perspective

Azra Ismail
Neha Kumar
Neha Madhiwalla
ACM Conference On Computer-Supported Cooperative Work And Social Computing(2023)


Artificial Intelligence (AI) based technologies are increasingly being integrated into public sector programs to help with decision-support and effective distribution of constrained resources. The field of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) has begun to examine how the resultant sociotechnical systems may be designed appropriately when targeting underserved populations. We present an ethnographic study of a largescale real-world integration of an AI system for resource allocation in a call-based maternal and child health program in India. Our findings uncover complexities around determining who benefits from the intervention, how the human-AI collaboration is managed, when intervention must take place in alignment with various priorities, and why the AI is sought, for what purpose. Our paper offers takeaways for human-centered AI integration in public health, drawing attention to the work done by the AI as actor, the work of configuring the human-AI partnership with multiple diverse stakeholders, and the work of aligning program goals for design and implementation through continual dialogue across stakeholders.