Google Offers Frontier Tech Aid to Take on Humanitarian Crises

ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
May 8, 2019

By Chloe Aiello

Frontier technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence have revolutionized Google's business, and now the tech company is looking to share the wealth with those that need it most: people on the front lines of humanitarian crises.

From among 2,600 applicants, 20 winning nonprofits and social enterprises walked away from Google's AI Impact Challenge with access to a pool of $25 million in funding, expertise from "Googlers," and a shot to mitigate humanitarian challenges in their local communities.

"We want to see if we can help make the world a better place by bringing the best of Google," said Jacquelline Fuller, vice president of Google, and president of the company's humanitarian arm, Google.org. "We look at issues and see where do we think we could have a differential impact. And so some of those areas include economic opportunity, the future of work, thinking about how to bring digital skilling to millions across the globe."

This year's winners include the American University of Beirut, which is developing a tool to help Middle Eastern and African farmers save water; Eastern Health of Australia, which uses machine learning to identify patterns in suicide attempts for more effective prevention; and Hand Talk, a startup that is using AI to translate Portuguese into sign language for disadvantaged, deaf Brazilians.

Fuller said the project helps unite tech companies, civil society, and governments to ensure "everyone has access to the benefits of this technology, and that we are applying it to the problems that really matter most to humanity."

Google announced the winners of its Impact Challenge during Google I/O, the annual developers conference the company uses to unveil new hardware and software innovations and updates to its existing services. At this year's conference, Google unveiled updates to much of its software, underscored privacy and accessibility features, and debuted the new Pixel 3a and 3a XL phones, Engadget reported.