Microsoft’s AI tech will aid humanitarian efforts

The company will put $40 million towards humanitarian work.

Microsoft is offering up its AI technology to those working on humanitarian efforts around the world. Over the next five years, its AI for Humanitarian Action program will put $40 million towards initiatives focused on four priorities -- disaster response, needs of children, refugees and displaced people and human rights. "We believe that technology, like artificial intelligence 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," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post.

The new program follows two others that make up Microsoft's AI for Good initiative. AI for Earth, which is focused on environmental challenges, launched last year, and Microsoft announced its AI for Accessibility effort in May. With this latest addition, Microsoft says it will work with nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian groups to unite its data science smarts with their expertise.

For disaster response, Microsoft is looking to use AI to help predict upcoming disasters, assess damage more quickly and target aid more effectively. It's also partnering with the World Bank, the United Nations and other tech companies in an effort to forecast famines around the world. Microsoft is also already involved in work that aims to protect children, partnering with Operation Smile, researchers studying sudden infant death syndrome and groups targeting human trafficking. Additionally, Microsoft is helping develop chatbots that can help connect displaced youth with educational resources and using AI-powered speech translation to connect those helping protect human rights to people who need their aid.

"We are hopeful the world will see what a compelling force for good AI can be when it's used well in partnership with innovative NGOs," said Smith. "By ensuring technology fulfills its promise to address the broadest societal needs, we can empower everyone to achieve more."