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AI Funding Doubles in 2021, Especially for Healthcare

Investment in artificial intelligence was up 108% year-over-year in 2021, with $66.8 billion in global funding for startups. Healthcare AI accounted for nearly one-fifth of the total funding, CB Insights reports.

The average AI deal size increased 78% from last year. Companies based in the U.S. and China led AI deals and funding, raising $10.5B (273 deals) and $4.4B (268 deals) respectively in the fourth quarter of 2021. A record number of new AI unicorns, 65 companies, reached $1 billion or more in valuation in 2021. In Q4 alone, there were 10 new AI unicorns globally, bringing the total number of billion-dollar AI startups to 125.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped contribute to growing investment in healthcare AI, which made up 18% of AI’s total funding last year. Healthcare funding nearly doubled, with startups raising $12.2B in 505 deals for the whole year. The U.S. led in healthcare funding in Q4 2021 with $2.6B, followed by Asia $0.7B, and Europe with $0.3B.

With such large increases in investment, companies will, more so than ever, need to assess the risks of AI integration — especially in applications that aim to address broad societal health challenges.

The UN Will Miss Its Goal of Gender Equality By 2030

Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2022 Goalkeeper’s Report

Women worldwide spend more than three times as many hours on unpaid household work and child care, leaving a gap between reality and the United Nations’ target for reaching gender equality by 2030, the Gates Foundation reports. In 2015, leaders from 195 countries pledged to achieve gender equality by 2030, but at the current pace of progress, most countries won’t reach gender equality until at least 2108.

One reason is that global shocks like COVID-19 significantly disproportionately affect women. In 2022, men have an estimated 72% labor force participation rate, compared to women’s 47%. Men have also recovered from unemployment during the pandemic at a rate that’s two times higher than women. The availability of child care is directly related to women’s participation in the workforce — in low- and middle-income countries, unpaid caregiving duties took up more than half of a woman’s working hours. 

But even before the pandemic, the World Bank reported that the difference between women and men’s earnings over a lifetime is $172.3 trillion. While no country has currently reached gender parity, Denmark ranks number one in the U.N.’s Gender Equality Index. The U.S. ranks 38th, well behind many countries in Europe, New Zealand, Canada, the U.K., Singapore, and Israel, despite having one of the highest national per capita incomes in the world.

Italy Elects First Far-Right Leader Since Mussolini

Source: Reuters

Italy elected its most right-wing government since World War II in Sunday’s election, according to the latest vote tallies. Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party won the majority (26%) of the vote, setting Meloni on course to be the country’s first female prime minister

A right-wing coalition between the Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s far-right Northern League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia won the majority of the seats in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, with around 44% of the vote. Italy’s center-left alliance received 26% of the vote, though the center and center-left parties individually won more votes than the right. In the previous 2018 election, the Brothers of Italy, a party with neofascist origins, won only 4% of the vote.

The 2022 election was triggered by a vote of no confidence in outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi, who resigned in July despite winning the confidence vote. Italy’s national unity government lasted 18 months before falling apart under the pressure of parliamentary infighting, debt, a cost of living crisis, and the Ukraine conflict.

Meloni has pledged her support for Ukraine and NATO. But the Northern League and Forza Italia’s reportedly close ties to Russia, and admiration for Russian President Vladmir Putin, have caused concern among Western allies about a right-wing shift in Europe.

Business Freedom Recovers in Europe

Globally, political rights and civil liberties have been on the decline for sixteen consecutive years. Business and democracy have a strong positive relationship, but they do not always go hand in hand. For example, in the past five years, India has become less politically free, but more friendly to businesses.

Europe has historically enjoyed a high rate of political and civil freedoms, as well as a high ease of doing business. This changed during the pandemic, where Europe’s scores fell substantially in business freedom. Governments across the continent imposed restrictions on business and economic activity to curb the health consequences of COVID-19. This had a huge impact on businesses, amounting to a loss of about 15% in industrial production a month after the implementation of containment measures.

Recovery seems to be back on track, according to data from latest edition of the Index of Economic Freedom, where we observe a strong bounce back in business freedom scores across Europe. This recovery, however, will be tested by the challenges stemming from the Ukraine crisis.

Global Standard of Living Drops for Second Year, UN Reports

Source: The Economist

The standard of living dropped for people around the world in 2021, wiping out any gains since 2016, the United Nations reports in its recent Human Development Index. The report comes just as world leaders met at the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the most pressing global issues. 

The U.N. reports that the pandemic, the Ukraine conflict and the effects of climate change are driving reversals in human development in more than 80% of the countries surveyed. This is the second year in a row that the global standard of living has dropped — the first time the index has dropped two years in a row since it started in 1990. 

The index measures factors like life expectancy, education and income. COVID-19 caused the biggest fall in life expectancy worldwide since World War II. The pandemic particularly accelerated the decline of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Living standards also dropped significantly in South Asia and fell even further in sub-Saharan Africa. The ongoing cost-of-living crisis spurred by inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means that conditions are unlikely to improve in the near future.

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