Microsoft Corp. has announced a five-year, $40 million initiative aimed at harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to help children, protect refugees and displaced people, promote respect for human rights, and improve the effectiveness of disaster relief and recovery efforts.
Announced at the company's annual IT event and in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly meeting, the AI for Humanitarian Action is the third program of Microsoft's AI for Good initiative, which was launched in July 2017; the $25 million AI for Accessibility program and $50 million AI for Earth programs were announced this past May and December.
Through the initiative, Microsoft will engage nongovernmental and humanitarian organizations in partnerships that leverage their expertise and the company's AI and data science know-how to develop new AI solutions that help forecast disasters and better target relief efforts; address the needs of children, including the provision of basic health services and the prevention of child trafficking; optimize the delivery of aid, supplies, and services to sixty-eight million displaced people, twenty-eight million of whom are refugees; and help monitor, detect, and prevent human rights abuses.
Microsoft also announced the hiring of John Kahan as chief data analytics officer for the company's corporate, external, and legal affairs. In that role, Kahan will lead the company's efforts to promote the sustainable use of the planet's resources, improve opportunities for people with disabilities, protect human rights, strengthen humanitarian assistance, and increase the capacity of NGOs to respond to humanitarian disasters.
"We are optimistic that AI for Humanitarian Action will accelerate the pace of innovation by managing strategic AI projects that demonstrate new applications, delivering reusable solutions, and partnering with others to expand and scale initial projects," said Microsoft president Brad Smith in a blog post. "We believe that technology, like artificial intelligence (AI) combined with cloud technology, can be a game changer, helping save more lives, alleviate suffering, and restore human dignity by changing the way frontline relief organizations anticipate, predict, and better target response efforts."
(Photo credit: United Nations/Eskinder Debebe)