International Development News
Development News Edition
Give Feedback

Microsoft to use AI to protect refugees, other humanitarian causes

Devdiscourse News Desk
Updated: 24-09-2018 22:22 IST

Tech giant Microsoft Monday announced a USD 40 million (about Rs 290 crore) programme that will focus on using artificial intelligence (AI) to help in disaster recovery and protecting refugees, among other humanitarian causes.

The five-year initiative will see AI also being harnessed for addressing the needs of children and promoting respect for human rights, Microsoft President Brad Smith said.

He added that Microsoft's 'AI for Humanitarian Action' programme is part of its 'AI for Good suite' – a USD 115-million commitment to work for solutions to some of society's biggest challenges using artificial intelligence.

"We believe that technology, like 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," Smith said in a blog post.

Microsoft said it is assembling a new team of top-flight data scientists and analysts within the company. To lead these efforts, John Kahan will join as the Chief Data Analytics Officer for Microsoft's Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, reporting directly to Smith.

Kahan's team's mandate will be to derive new insights and infuse data science to address challenges, including promoting sustainable use of the planet's resources, improving opportunities for people with disabilities, protecting human rights, and strengthening humanitarian assistance.

The blog post said AI can equip organizations with better tools to protect children against crimes like human trafficking.

"Already we are using predictive analytics and bot frameworks to target both the supply and demand underpinning human trafficking – ultimately disrupting criminals and bringing relief to victims around the world," Smith said.

Microsoft has also collaborated with Integrative Brain Research Institute of Seattle Children's Hospital and some of the top medical researchers worldwide for using AI and machine learning to develop a genomics database focused on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This will provide new insights to identify the causes of SIDS worldwide.

"AI and machine learning have the potential to improve the lives of approximately 68 million displaced people in the world, 28 million of whom are refugees. AI can help optimize the delivery of aid, supplies, and services to refugees and can scale NGOs' efforts to communicate and understand displaced peoples' needs," the blog post noted.