Today at an AI event in London, we announced a new program called AI for Earth, aimed at putting the power of artificial intelligence towards solving some of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. As a technology company with a deep commitment to sustainability, we understand that our responsibility extends beyond our own operations to innovating towards a healthier and better future more broadly.
We are excited by the potential of putting artificial intelligence in the hands of researchers and organizations to drive new data insights that will help solve important issues related to water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change.
Microsoft will offer access to cloud and AI computing resources, technology trainings and lighthouse projects – a $2 million commitment in this next fiscal year. And to lead this work, we’ve named Lucas Joppa, longtime Microsoft Research lead on computational ecology, to the role of chief environmental scientist.
Why AI for Earth?
The scale and speed of the changes we see in our physical and natural world require new solutions. But the latest innovative technologies often come with a price tag and require computational expertise that puts them out of reach for many researchers and nongovernmental organizations. To make AI more accessible to these important groups, we’ve designed a program based on three pillars:
- Access: We will improve access by making a new pool of grants available to help researchers and organizations gain access to cloud and AI computing resources. This includes access to Azure compute time and our data science virtual machine offerings on Azure. These grant applications are available today.
- Education: We will provide new training and educational opportunities to make sure people and organizations know what AI tools are available, how to use these tools and how the tools can help meet their specific needs. Our approach will be both broad and deep, reaching many people through general session trainings as well as small group faculty summits on single issue areas and training for grantees.
- Innovation: We also want to encourage others to innovate based on the power and potential of AI. We will partner with others on lighthouse projects that demonstrate how AI can deliver results more rapidly, accurately and efficiently. Already, we have three projects underway – one enabling land cover mapping to aid precision conservation; another that will enable smart agriculture through sensors, drones, data and broadband connectivity; and another that will test the viability of using our smart mosquito traps to remotely track and monitor species health.
Our goal is to empower others in new and more impactful ways to help create a more sustainable future. This program expands our commitments to democratizing AI and advancing sustainability around the globe. And it builds upon our experience in accelerating the pace of innovation bringing together philanthropic work, connectivity advances and more accessible technology around the world.
There is no shortage of work to be done to chart a healthier, more sustainable future for our planet. Time is not our friend on this endeavor, and the stakes are high. We know that AI for Earth is just a first step in a longer journey. But what we’ve seen so far gives us optimism for the future. We’re looking forward to working with our current and future partners to deliver on that belief.
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