3 companies use AI to fight against the UN Sustainable Development Goals


When the Google AI Impact Challenge, an open invitation to organizations around the world to submit their ideas on how AI could address social, humanitarian and environmental challenges, was launched in October 2018, it received 2,602 applications from six continents and 119 countries.

After review by a panel of experts including Jacquelline Fuller, vice president of Google and president of Google.org, 20 proposals from Australia to Uganda were selected for the program. As grantees, each had access to a support package that included coaching from Google AI experts and a pool of A $ 32.7 million in grants from Google.org.

With AI and its machine learning and deep learning subsets now infiltrating our lives daily, from asking Amazon Alexa for the morning news to taking a photo on your smartphone and uploading it to social media, it’s no surprise that individuals and around the world are exploring how we can harness this technology to solve issues of significant social significance.

And, while many initiatives are still in the design stages, analysts such as the nonprofit AI for Good based in Berkeley, Calif., Suggest that AI is already having a positive impact on everyone. 17 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

In its discussion paper Applying Artificial Intelligence for Social Good, McKinsey Global Institute identified 18 AI capabilities that can be applied to social issues, the majority of which (14) fell into three main categories: computer vision, natural language processing. and speech and audio processing.

When these capabilities were mapped across 10 social domains (such as education, environment, health, and hunger), image classification and object detection stood out for their potential impact on a large number of people. of social causes.

AI is already having a positive impact on the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

However, there are significant obstacles to the successful implementation of AI for good solutions. Besides the accessibility of data and the lack of qualified AI professionals, one of the main obstacles is internal expertise: organizations have either technical know-how in AI or the social sector, rarely both. This is where initiatives such as Google’s AI Impact Challenge or the DataRobot enterprise AI platform’s AI for Good program find their place to foster partnerships that turn ideas into impactful solutions that become user-friendly and autonomous in the long term.

Although Google and McKinsey & Co warn that AI “is not a silver bullet,” the influence that AI-based algorithms can have on some of the world’s toughest problems is already evident, from using image recognition to identify disease in cassava, a plant that feeds more than half a billion people in Africa daily, to using drones to monitor the endangered sea cow in Australia.

“These are still the early days of deploying AI for social good, and considerable progress will be needed before the vast potential becomes a reality,” says the McKinsey Global Institute Discussion Paper.

3 initiatives using AI for the good of society

Makerere University, Uganda

Air pollution in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, is six times higher than World Health Organization guidelines, but researchers at the country’s Makerere University aim to change that with its AirQo prototype.

One of the 20 beneficiaries of the Google AI Impact Challenge, the project involved the placement of low-cost air sensors on motorcycle taxis, among others. By applying AI to data received from sensors, researchers are able to not only monitor current air quality, but also use the information to forecast more reliably.

“The data collected is used to inform public policies on the reduction, containment and better management of air pollution and the health risks associated with it. The same data is also used to raise awareness of air quality issues, ”said Dr Engineer Bainomugisha, Project Manager and Chairman, Department of Computer Science, College of Computer and Information Science, University of Makerere.

Kiva, United States

According to the World Bank, around 1.7 billion people are “unbanked” – or unable to access the services offered by a bank or banking institution. Founded in 2005, Kiva non-profit offers crowdfunding loans in its mission to help these people gain access to the financial services they need, whether to start a business, continue their education or more.

To ensure visibility of every loan request, regardless of the applicant’s geographic location, the San Francisco-based app has partnered with the DataRobot AI for Good program. Drawing on the data from each loan, a machine learning solution was designed and integrated into Kiva’s website to ensure that no loan applications fall through the cracks.

“Our goal was to get loans in front of people who might not otherwise be seen, and we can do that through machine learning,” says Brian Kimming, Senior Data Scientist at Kiva.

SkillLab, Netherlands

Another Google AI Impact Challenge recipient, the mastermind behind it SkillLab have a mission: “No one should be excluded from an opportunity just because their skills are invisible”.

The Amsterdam-based organization advocates for an inclusive labor market where opportunities for social and economic participation are open to everyone, regardless of their status, race, gender or origin.

SkillLab’s AI-based assessment mobile app enables refugees and migrants in particular to document their skills in their native language and, in turn, be guided to relevant career opportunities and educational pathways. in local labor markets.

“The vision behind the tool is that employment services can use it on their first contact with newly arrived refugees, and build them an excellent profile on which personal career planning services can be based,” said Ulrich Scharf, co-founder and CEO of SkillLab. an interview with the European Commission’s electronic platform for adult learning in Europe.


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