Announcing its plan to broaden the AI for Earth program, Microsoft has pledged $50 million over the next five years to put artificial intelligence technology in the hands of those who are working to mitigate climate change. Microsoft rolled out the AI for Earth program six months ago with an aim to put the power of artificial intelligence towards tackling environmental challenges.
“At Microsoft, we believe artificial intelligence is a game changer. Our approach as a company is focused on democratising AI so its features and capabilities can be put to use by individuals and organisations around the world to improve real-world outcomes,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith wrote in a blog post on Monday.
The announcement came on the eve of the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement. AI can be very useful in monitoring, modelling and managingthe Earth’s natural systems. Data can speak volumes about the health of our home planet, including the conditions of air, water, land and the well-being of our wildlife.
“But we need technology’s help to capture this vast amount of data and convert it into actionable intelligence. AI can be trained to classify raw data from sensors on the ground, in the sky or in space into categories that both humans and computers understand,” Smith said.
“Fundamentally, AI can accelerate our ability to observe environmental systems and how they are changing at a global scale, convert the data into useful information and apply that information to take concrete steps to better manage our natural resources,” he added.
Over the past six months, Microsoft has awarded over 35 grants in more than 10 countries for access to Microsoft Azure and AI technology. Microsoft said its AI for Earth could be a force multiplier for groups and individuals who are creating sustainable solutions.
“That’s why we’re not just putting more resources into this effort, but also coupling this with a long-term commitment to applying AI to grow and scale in four key areas – climate, water, agriculture and biodiversity,” Smith said.
Microsoft wants to do it in three ways. First, it plans to expand seed grants around the world to create and test new AI applications. “We will also provide universities, nongovernmental organisations and others with advanced training to put AI to its best use,” Smith said.
Next, Microsoft will identify the projects that show the most promise and make larger investments to help bring them to scale. “Finally, as these projects advance, we’ll identify and pursue opportunities to incorporate new AI advances into platform-level services so that others can use them for their own sustainability initiatives,” Smith said.