AI for Humanity: Microsoft

Microsoft, a leading technological company since the early 2000 is now using their technology for the good of humanity. From grants and technology support to creating their own programs to help benefit humanity, Microsoft is without a doubt trying to make a everlasting impact on the world. According to Microsoft, “Since 2018, Microsoft has supported 29 AI for Humanitarian Action projects in 9 countries, advancing solutions to address challenges in disaster response, refugees, displaced people, human rights, and the needs of women and children through grants, technology donations, and data science support.” In addition to technological support, Microsoft has also pledged to provided at least 40 million dollars, over the next five years, in funding in the following areas: Disaster response, refugees and displaced people, human rights, needs of women and children. As we continue to explore the different projects that Microsoft is currently working on, we can also see how they are focusing on each of the different topics listed above.

Microsoft is using their AI technology for disaster response, thru their project that is putting vulnerable people on the map. Thanks to the partnership between Humanitarian OpenStreeetMap Team (HOT) and Microsoft Philanthropies and Bing Maps, they will now be able to those that are most vunerable to natural disasters on the map. This team is currently working on open mapping these vulnerable areas by building an AI-assisted workflow in their mapping platform, which will enhance the mappers experience. As Microsoft explains that “Although there are very few completely unmapped parts of the world, not all places have been mapped in the same level of detail. Across North America, Europe and most of the developed world, there is no shortage of data added to maps and mapping systems. Roads, houses, schools, hospitals, businesses and more are drawn, labelled — even photographed — and made searchable.” However, this is not the case in some of the most remote parts of first world countries and in almost any part of an undeveloped country. This lack of mapping is what has driven Microsoft’s AI for Humanitarian Action program and Bing to partner with HOT to combine satellite mapping with machine learning to create a “new generation of detailed and potentially life-saving maps.” The AI program that they are now using “can predict features, suggest that a shape may be a building and it speed up that initial identification. That way [HOT’s] people can bring the value they add faster, too, determining what a feature is, adding detailed information.” One key area that the team is focused on mapping is the continent of Africa. They have now nearly completed a complete detailed map of the Tanzanian costal city of Dar es Salaam. This new map allows for views to see the conditions of roads, buildings and other key infrastructure. These new maps will forever positively affect humanity and those around affect by natural disaster. Now, first responders can see exactly where those who need them most are and what resources those people in danger need. Microsoft is also currently working on a project to help monitor human rights violations.

Microsoft is also using their technology to help monitor human rights violations across globe, through the collaboration between Microsoft and the Clooney Foundation for Justice. Microsoft has created an AI program that can empower human rights trial monitors to capture multiple types of data in one place and then it extracts that information that people can then use to assess the fairness of the trial. In many parts of the globe judges can be purchased by the highest bidder or sometimes judges are apart of the human rights abuse that takes place when judges wrongfully convict people for ‘crimes’ due to their sexuality or because of blasphemy. Even though these judges are, in many cases, breaking the law they are rarely held accountable. This is where the Clooney Foundation for Justice comes in. They target these cases where there is a high risk for the violations of human rights in a trial. When they detect one of these cases they monitor the trial and “work to expose and rally support to secure justice for defendants whose rights have been violated.” Once the Clooney Foundation for Justice has detected a trial in which they believe that there is potential for a humans right violation trial monitors are deployed to observe and report on the criminal trials around the world. Microsoft has created a specialized app for these monitors that use AI to facilitate the reporting that these monitors do in a consistent way that keeps track of any potential violations of human rights that are occurring during the trial. This technological advance will make it so that human rights are being monitored and protected across the globe in the eyes of the law, helping the humanity for those in need, across the globe.

Microsoft is also working on a project that is helping refugees and displaced people. Microsoft has partnered with the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) to help advocate for those that are seeking asylum. Microsoft has created a program that uses a speech-to-speech AI program and an Azure database to allow for people seeking asylum to communicate with volunteers and legal aid organizations that work to assist families fleeing persecution in their home countries. The AI program that Microsoft has creates helps ASAP track changing court dates and prioritize asylum cases that are most urgently in need of legal help. Microsofts use of AI to help the ASAP is allowing for those seeking asylum is giving these families the chance to give themselves and their families a better life, because now they can get the proper legal council, giving them a much better chance to get to the desired country and leave the persecution that they are facing in their home countries.

One of the final projects that we are going to talk about today has helped thousands of children across the globe. Microsoft partnered with nonprofit organization, Operation Smile. Operation Smile is works with children waiting for care from 34 different countries. They focus on helping children in non developed countries that are born with a clef lip of clef palate. Many of these kids are unable to receive the medical care that they need because it is too costly, far away, or specialized. They work to connect people with their volunteers that are experts in treating cleft lip and cleft palate, through their partnership with Microsoft they have created solutions that deliver safe surgery to the people that need it most. Operation Smile uses the modern cloud technologies from Microsoft Philanthropies. It uses SharePoint to “manage the complex logistics of missions”. Before Microsofts technology they used to do everything on paper or in discrete documents, however now they can use SharePoint to quickly put all of the information in one place and share it across the globe. In addition, Microsoft technology has allowed for Operation Smile to accelerate the evaluation through the use of AI. With the AI-powered Microsoft Pix camera app Operation Smile is now able to analyze photos with facial modeling algorithms, and has lead to nearly double the amount of surgeries that they are able to provide. This use of technology that Microsoft has provided to Operation Smile has posotivly improved the lives for thousands of children across the globe.

Due to all of the different ways that Microsoft is using their technology for good, it can be reasonably stated that they genuinely care about the well being of people in need around the world. They do not get any financial gain from these partnerships, however they know impact that it has to those around the world. This is something that many tech. companies need to embrace. The idea that although there might be no financial gain there is certainly a gain to humanity, and many times this gain that occurs for humanity is more important then the finacial. If every tech. company did what Microsoft does and uses their technology for the wellbeing of humanity, everyone on this earth would be much better off.

Carson Hubbard is a Student Ambassador in the Inspirit AI Student Ambassadors Program. Inspirit AI is a pre-collegiate enrichment program that exposes curious high school students globally to AI through live online classes. Learn more at https://www.inspiritai.com/.