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Lacuna Fund

To unlock the benefits of AI for all, Meridian facilitates and manages Lacuna Fund, an innovative funder collaborative that puts resources directly into the hands of changemakers in low- and middle-income contexts globally.

The Challenge 

  • Machine learning (ML) has shown great potential to address critical societal needs, but in low- and middle-income contexts globally, a lack of unbiased, representative data puts these benefits out of reach. 

The Partners 

  • A Steering Committee, comprised of senior experts in the AI for social good space
  • Technical Advisory Panels, comprised of experts in both machine learning and specific domains (health, climate, language, etc.)
  • A broad range of Funders, ranging from public-sector agencies to private philanthropies
  • Our grantees, who receive funding to create machine learning datasets

The Impact

  • Since Lacuna Fund’s inception in 2020, over $9 million has been invested in 54 countries globally. The funded datasets are filling data gaps in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, solving critical problems in the domains of health, climate, agriculture, and language and contributing to on-the-ground impact in local communities. 

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Project Overview

Artificial intelligence (AI) can improve healthcare outcomes, increase food sovereignty, and enable access to digital services for millions around the globe. But in low- and middle-income contexts globally, a lack of representative data puts the benefits of AI out of reach for many vulnerable and underserved populations.  

To unlock the benefits of AI for all, Meridian, along with funders and partners, launched Lacuna Fund – the world’s first collaborative effort to fund open datasets for social impact. Through open calls for proposals, Lacuna Fund provides data scientists, researchers, and social entrepreneurs with the resources they need to label, create, expand, and maintain open datasets that address urgent problems in their communities.

Lacuna Fund proactively embeds Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in its governance and decision-making processes. The Fund’s Steering Committee is composed of technical experts, thought leaders, local beneficiaries, and end users, with a focus on geographic, gender, and sector diversity.

The Steering Committee prioritizes both increasing equity in the larger field of AI for social good and fueling meaningful on-the-ground impact for communities. The Technical Advisory Panels, which are the groups that recommend proposals for funding, are made up of experts across relevant domains, with a focus on representation from geographies where funding is disbursed.  

Taking a people-centered approach, Lacuna Fund puts resources directly into the hands of leaders in affected areas and ensures solutions are developed locally and grounded in community priorities. Lacuna Fund’s open funding processes give agency to communities to define their needs and harness local capabilities to solve them.

By helping build the capacity of local organizations to be data collectors, curators, and owners, the Fund empowers changemakers with the data resources they need to fill data gaps, reduce bias, uncover new insights, embrace innovative solutions, and ultimately fuel systemic change.  

Read Lacuna Fund’s Guiding Principles here.

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Explore the Data

Agriculture Datasets

Lacuna Fund’s agriculture datasets unlock the power of machine learning to alleviate food security challenges, spur economic opportunities, and give researchers, farmers, communities, and policymakers access to superior agricultural datasets. Explore the datasets on the Lacuna Fund website.

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Explore the Data

Language Datasets

Lacuna Fund language datasets create openly accessible text and speech resources that fuel natural language processing technologies in diverse languages across low- and middle-income contexts globally. Explore the datasets on the Lacuna Fund website.