Microsoft wants to support humanitarian efforts worldwide using AI

Microsoft has been offering its artificial intelligence (AI) capability to help solve some of the world's biggest challenges through AI for Good. That initiative aims to provide technology and resources in aid of humanitarian programs with $115 million in funding over five years.

Today, Microsoft has announced a new program called AI for Humanitarian Action as part of the AI for Good initiative. Under the program, the software giant will inject $40 million over five years into efforts focused on four priority areas: disaster response, children's welfare, protection for refugees and displaced people, and human rights preservation.

Microsoft said AI for Humanitarian Action is patterned after its existing AI for Good programs such as AI for Earth, announced in July 2017 to help solve the world's environmental issues, and AI for Accessibility, unveiled earlier this year to provide developers the tools they need to build AI solutions accessible to persons with disabilities. With the new effort, the Redmond-based company will work with non-governmental organizations and humanitarian groups through financial grants, technology investments, and partnerships in order to blend their expertise with Microsoft's AI and data science capabilities.

For disaster response, Microsoft has teamed up with the World Bank, United Nations, and tech companies to help relief organizations predict the occurrence of famines around the world. In helping to provide basic health services to children, the software giant is already in partnership with Operation Smile to improve the surgical outcomes for children with facial deformities. The company is also working with the Integrative Brain Research Institute of Seattle Children’s Hospital and other medical researchers to build a genomics database meant to help identify the causes of sudden infant death syndrome worldwide.

To help refugees and displaced people, Microsoft is developing an AI-based chatbot designed to connect displaced youth with educational resources. Additionally, the company will work with NGOs and humanitarian organizations to monitor and address human rights abuses. Microsoft is also forming a new team of data scientists and analysts to help grow those efforts, with John Kahan serving as the chief data analytics officer for Microsoft’s Corporate, External and Legal Affairs.

Microsoft said that it remains hopeful that AI will be demonstrated as a "compelling force for good" in tackling the "broadest societal needs" when used in its partnerships.

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