Microsoft commits $40M over 5 years to AI for Humanitarian Action initiative

Microsoft President Brad Smith. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Microsoft is investing in a new program employing its vast artificial intelligence resources to deal with humanitarian crisis.

Full Coverage: News and analysis from Microsoft’s Ignite 2018 event in Orlando

Set against the backdrop of Hurricane Florence pummeling the Carolinas last week, Microsoft announced in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Monday morning that it is pledging $40 million over five years for a new AI for Humanitarian Action initiative. The program will focus on using AI to aid in four areas: disaster recovery, children’s needs, protecting refugees and displaced people and human rights.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith detailed the investment in a blog post, and shared why Microsoft wants to help relief organizations.

Persistent humanitarian crises caused by natural and man-made disasters, oppression and other emergencies have plagued our world as long as time itself. And while global relief organizations scramble to respond to these events, their work by definition is often reactive and difficult to scale. 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 has now committed $115 million to its AI for Good program, which aims to employ Microsoft AI and financial resources to important causes. The first push, AI for Earth, is a five-year, $50 million pledge unveiled last year, meant to put AI offerings into the hands of universities, non-governmental organizations and other groups to help solve issues related to climate change, water, agriculture, biodiversity and more.

That was followed in May by AI for Accessibility, a $25 million commitment over five years to develop AI-powered technologies to help people with disabilities deal with challenges in three key areas: employment, human connection and modern life.

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