Rediet Abebe (Cornell University) “Using Search Queries to Understand Health Information Needs in Africa”

March 4, 2019 @ 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm
Access to healthcare and health information is of major global concern. The stark inequality in the availability of health data by country, demographic groups, and socioeconomic status impedes the identification of major public health concerns and implementation of effective interventions. This data gap ranges from basic disease statistics, such as disease prevalence rates, to more nuanced information, such as public attitudes. A key challenge is understanding health information needs of under-served and marginalized communities. Without understanding people’s everyday needs, concerns, and misconceptions, health organizations lack the ability to effectively target education and programming efforts.
In this presentation, we focus on the lack of comprehensive, high-quality data about information needs of individuals in developing nations. We propose an approach that uses search data to uncover health information needs of individuals in all 54 nations in Africa. We analyze Bing searches related to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; these searches reveal diverse health information needs that vary by demographic groups and geographic regions. We also shed light on discrepancies in the quality of content returned by search engines.
We conclude with a discussion on computationally-informed interventions both on- and off-line in health and related domains and the Mechanism Design for Social Good research initiative.
Rediet Abebe is a computer scientist with a strong interest in the promotion of equality and justice. Her research focuses on algorithms, AI, and their applications to social good. As part of this research agenda, she co-founded and co-organizes Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG), an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research initiative with over 300 individuals. She is also a co-founder and co-organizer of Black in AI, an international network of over 1000 individuals focused on increasing the presence and inclusion of Black and African researchers in AI. Her research is deeply influenced by her upbringing in her hometown of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she lived until moving to the U.S. in 2009. Her work has been generously supported by fellowships and scholarships through Facebook, Google, the Cornell Graduate School, and the Harvard-Cambridge Fellowship.

Center for Language and Speech Processing