How we’re supporting 30 new AI for Social Good projects

June 28th, 2021

Over recent years, we have seen remarkable progress in AI’s ability to confront new problems and help solve old ones. Advancing these efforts was one reason we set up the Google Research India lab in 2019, with a particular emphasis on AI research that could make a positive social impact. It’s also why we’ve supported nonprofit organizations through the Google AI Impact Challenge.

Working in partnership with and Google’s University Relations program, our goal is to help academics and nonprofits develop AI techniques that can improve people’s lives — especially in underserved communities that haven’t yet benefited from advances in AI. We reported on the impact of six such projects in 2020. And today, we’re sharing 30 new projects that will receive funding and support as part of our AI for Social Good program.

During the application process, Googlers arranged workshops involving more than 150 teams to discuss potential projects. Following the workshop meetings, project teams made up of NGOs and academics submitted proposals that Google experts reviewed. The result is a promising range of projects spanning seventeen countries across Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa — including India, Uganda, Nigeria, Japan, and Australia— focused on agriculture, conservation, and public health.

In agriculture, this includes research to help farmer collectives with market intelligence and use data to improve crop and irrigation planning for smallholder farmers. In public health, we are backing projects that will enable targeted public health interventions and will help community health workers to forecast health risks in countries such as Kenya, India, and Uganda. We’re also supporting research to better forecast the need for critical resources like vaccines and care, including in Nigeria. And in conservation, we’re supporting research to help understand animal population changes, such as the effect of poaching on elephants, and gorillas. Other projects will help reduce conservation conflict and poaching, including the human-elephant conflict in Kenya.

Each project team will receive funding, technical contributions from Google, and access to computational resources. Academics in this program will be recognized as “Impact Scholars” for their contributions towards advancing research for social good.

We’ve seen the impact these kinds of projects can make. One of the nonprofit leaders supported by the program last year, ARMANN founder Dr. Aparna Hedge, has received AI research support from IIT Madras and Google Research to improve maternal and child health outcomes in India. The team is building a predictive model to prevent expectant mothers from dropping out of supportive telehealth outreach programs. Results so far show AI could enable ARMANN to increase the number of women engaged through the program by 50%, and they have received a second grant to enable them to build on this progress. Dr. Hedge says the program is “already showing encouraging results — and I am confident that this partnership will bring immense benefits in the future.”

Congratulations to all the recipients of this round’s support. We’re looking forward to continuing to nurture the AI for Social Good community, bringing together experts from diverse backgrounds with the common goal of advancing AI to improve lives around the world.