Bringing AI Within Reach

AI is not the stuff of science fiction. It is often used very loosely to refer to technologies with the capability of processing and making sense of massive volumes of data, many of which (Internet search, email spam filters) we’re already using regularly.

Yet still, for many independent farmers, small business owners, or community-based organizations, AI may seem like an inscrutable or unaffordable system that is technically and financially out of reach. As Ali Lange from Google’s Policy team pointed out at the recent launch of the Refresh Working Group, “we have the tendency to mystify the concept of artificial intelligence.” Google.org is trying to change that. The new Google AI Impact Challenge (deadline: January 22) is making $25 million available in grants for small businesses or nonprofit organizations that want to use “the power of AI to address social and environmental challenges.” This global challenge seeks to fund projects that use AI for a charitable purpose and demonstrate the positive impacts AI can have in improving people’s lives.

This challenge offers independent farmers, nonprofit leaders, and small business owners the opportunity to envision what kind of AI system would help them to optimize their work and integrate their mission and values into those tools. The AI Impact Challenge gives practitioners the chance to speak with prospective programmers and developers and to leverage the kind of information that’s most important to them by creating datasets—or leveraging already-existing ones— to imagine a customized system that meets the needs of their communities.

Grantees get to own these projects by developing and implementing plans that include introducing developers or other new staff members into their ranks in order to achieve their technological and social vision for a better future. Google will tailor support to each grantee in the form of substantial grant funding and may also offer coaching, mentorship, and inclusion in an ML accelerator to support the organization’s plans for implementation.

What kind of role do you want AI to play in our future? Don’t miss the chance to tell Google what you want that to be. Applications are due January 22nd.

Diana Huang
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