AI Insights

12 Innovative NGOs Driving the Future of AI for Good

January 18, 2022


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How NGOs are applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the most impactful way to solve grand challenges on the planet.

How is AI changing the world for Good?

Much energy and attention are spent on futuristic AI such as self-driving cars, robot cities, and doomsday worlds.

Fortunately, the AI for Good movement continues to spark interest by solving meaningful problems with an immediate benefit to society and the planet.

The future of AI is already here. Artificial Intelligence is a force to be embraced for Good. AI for Good, is the positive utilization of AI to support the digital transformation of society, the environment; the world. With an aim to unite, inform and activate through AI, forward thinking organizations are able to advance global sustainability. Innovative NGOs that are AI-based, are tackling some of the world’s toughest problems in areas such as healthcare, safety, policy making, and education.

What is the current and future role of AI for NGOs?

McKinsey compiled a library of about 160 AI social-impact use cases. They suggest that existing capabilities could contribute to tackling cases across all 17 of the UN’s sustainable development goals, potentially helping hundreds of millions of people in both advanced and emerging countries.

Common obstacles NGOs face in the adoption of AI

While many NGOs (as listed below) leverage AI on a large scale and in a meaningful manner, there are still challenges that need to be overcome by the AI For Good Initiative. AI-based challenges work best when they are well defined, and the identification of these problems requires a detailed analysis of current global challenges and acting on them in order of priority.

 Current hurdles include: 

  • How to identify the right data problems to solve, in a world where many urgent challenges loom. 
  • How to collect or generate the data in a meaningful manner to extract insights. The ability to validate generated data, and filter out data that does not correlate to the current problem being studied. 
  • Interpreting data once it has been generated, and converting it to information, insights, and recommendations. 
  • Generating stakeholder buy-in within the NGO by finding the right moments to introduce new technologies. The pandemic has generated various opportunities for technology utilization to help NGOs become 21st century driven organizations.

What is an AI-enabled NGO? 

An AI-enabled NGO is an organization that recognizes the value of data and uses AI algorithms to deliver services and programs highly efficiently and at a large scale. 

The journey starts where an organization realizes that it can use data to improve current processes and takes the first step to discover concrete options. Once the NGO has realized the potential of data-based solutions, it almost naturally continues on this path, and step by step moves towards becoming an AI-enabled NGO.

How 12 Innovative NGOs are Driving the Future of AI for Good

12 Innovative NGOs Driving the Future of AI for Good

12 Innovative NGOs Driving the Future of AI for Good

1. Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is a global NGO that is supported by a team of humanitarians who work together to solve crises and create a prosperous future. Mercy Corp’s mission is to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities.

How they apply AI for Good

In an increasingly interconnected world, technology is both a driver of some of the challenges Mercy Corps works to overcome — and a potential solution. As one example, Mercy Corp has installed 68 Wifi hotspots since 2015, created a digital program for refugees, and has provided digital cash and vouchers as AID. Also, the Technology for Impact partnership is a 5-year collaboration between Mercy Corps and Cisco. Cisco has given the Mercy Corps Technology for Development team (T4D) $8.5 million in funding and $1.5 million in product and technical expertise to support seven specific initiatives to unlock new possibilities and reach more people through the power of technology.

2. WWF International

WWF International

WWF International

Wildlife has halved in less than a generation. Natural habitats are being put under increasing pressure. And climate change is leading us into uncharted territory. WWF is dedicated to conserving the planet’s natural resources.

How they apply AI for Good

WWF has a series of digital challenges that are dedicated to solving crises in the areas of Climate, Food Security, Ocean, Freshwater, Forests, and Wildlife. 

3. AI for Good UK

 AI for Good UK

AI for Good UK

AI for Good, UK is a leading organization with the mission “to help 100 million people by solving some of the toughest challenges facing humanity”.

How they apply AI for Good

Kriti Sharma, the founder, is a leader in the emerging field of technology for development. She gave a truly inspiring Ted Talk on how to keep human bias out of AI. Her organization works with governments, the United Nations, businesses, and local communities.

Source: AI for Good UK

Source: AI for Good UK

One of AI For Good UK’s very impactful projects is called rAInbow, a conversational smart companion, “designed to reach millions who are in an abusive, controlling or unhealthy relationship”. The addressed problem is that almost one-third (30 percent) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Within the first 100 days of launch, users had nearly 200,000 conversations with the AI system.

4. AI 4 All

AI 4 All

AI 4 All

The mission of US-based non-profit AI4ALL is to open doors to Artificial Intelligence for underrepresented talent through education and mentorship.

The idea for AI4ALL originated in 2015 when Dr. Olga Russakovsky, approached her advisor, renowned AI researcher Dr. Fei-Fei Li, with an idea for how to create more access for underrepresented people in the field of artificial intelligence. A little later AI4ALL was born. I believe in human-centered AI to benefit people in positive and benevolent ways. — Dr. Fei-Fei Li

How They Apply AI For Good 

AI4ALL’s latest development is an open learning environment to bring free AI education to schools, organizations, and communities. AI4ALL’s Open Learning is designed to equip educators and community members to empower high school students with relevant and approachable AI Education. The program can integrate with a variety of learning settings. 

Image Credit: AI4All 

Image Credit: AI4All

5. Solve by MIT

Solve by MIT

Solve by MIT

Solve is an AI For Good initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a mission to solve world challenges. Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation. 

Solve utilizes a series of open innovation challenges to discover incredible tech-based social entrepreneurs all around the world. Solve encourages collaboration via integrating MIT’s Innovation Ecosystem and community of members. Opportunities for support are generated, and transformational impact will be achieved via project accomplishments.  There are more than 130 Solver teams solving big Global Challenges.

How they apply AI for Good 

Solve initiatives also help citizens and communities to integrate, and utilize AI to minimize wealth gaps by providing access to critical technology. The mobile phone, the internet, new digital technologies, and innovations have created unprecedented access to services such as finance and education, as well as opportunities for citizens to engage in community action and democratic processes. Their currently running Challenge is the SOLV[ED] YOUTH INNOVATION CHALLENGE.

Image Credit: MIT Solve

Image Credit: MIT Solve

6. World Resources Institute

 World Resources Institute

World Resources Institute

WRI is a global research organization that works with governments, businesses, multilateral institutions, and civil society groups to develop practical solutions that improve people’s lives and protect nature.

How they apply AI for Good

WRI organizes its work around seven global challenges: Food, Forests, Water, Energy, Climate, the Ocean, and Cities. WRI analyzes these issues through the lenses of four Centers of Excellence: Business, Economics, Finance, and Equity.

As part of WRI´s AI and data science-related work, they have been seeking to understand how regional and global Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) (e.g. forest and landscape restoration) can be leveraged to address and minimize climate change impacts. More than 50 Omdena AI changemakers applied Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to develop an interactive dashboard, which visualizes the impact of climate change in various areas as well as showcases mitigating Nature-Based-Solutions.

Machine Learning Climate Change

Dashboard: Omdena

7. ITU AI for Good Conference

ITU AI for Good Conference

ITU AI for Good Conference

The AI for Good Global Summit is the leading United Nations platform for global and inclusive dialogue on AI. The Summit is hosted each year in Geneva by the ITU in partnership with UN Sister agencies, XPRIZE Foundation and ACM.

The 2022 AI For Good Program is available here. Activities on trending topics in AI are discussed in detail at each of the identified summits. 

8. Danish Refugee Council 

Danish Refugee Council 

Danish Refugee Council

The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) works globally providing support and solutions for refugees and displaced people. The five core focuses are Protection, Economic Recovery, Humanitarian Disarmament and Peacebuilding, Shelter and Settlements, Camp Coordination, and Camp Management.

How they apply AI for Good

The Danish Refugee Council utilizes innovative financing in order to help displaced people rebuild their lives in a more sustainable world.

DRC is using AI/ML to forecast forced displacement initially in Afghanistan, Myanmar, and West Africa, and is working to expand to cover all major and potential displacement crises. The Foresight tool uses open data from sources including UNHCR, the World Bank, and NGO agencies to predict forced displacement in a given country over the next one to three years. The insights are used for strategic planning and operational preparedness, both within DRC and the wider humanitarian sector.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qt-m6qgPS18[/embedyt] 

9. World Food Programme

World Food Programme

World Food Programme

The World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability, and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.

How they apply AI for Good

The World Food Programme works to leverage technology to enhance nutrition in women and children, support smallholder farmers in improving productivity and reducing losses, help countries and communities prepare for and cope with climate-related shocks, and boost human capital through school feeding programmes.

Omdena worked with the World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator to help affected populations during a disaster through the application of AI. A collaborative Omdena team of 34 engineers and data scientists worked to build solutions to predict affected populations and create customized relief packages for disaster prevention.

Food Relief Tool: Omdena

Food Relief Tool: Omdena

10. UNDP

UNDP

UNDP

UNDP works in about 170 countries and territories, helping to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and exclusion, and build resilience so countries can sustain progress. 

How they apply AI for Good

As the UN’s development agency, UNDP plays a critical role in helping countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2020, UNDP launched a new Digital Strategy to enhance its support to governments in adapting to this rapidly-changing environment – including by building digital capacity within the Organization. The strategy seeks to increase understanding of digital technologies and how they can be used to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the risks and trade-offs that come with them.

11. Catholic Relief Services 

Catholic Relief Services 

Catholic Relief Services

The Catholic Relief Services works with organizations around the world to help poor and vulnerable people overcome emergencies, earn a living through agriculture, and access affordable health care.

How they apply AI for Good

Under the AI for Good Initiative, education is at the heart of CRS’ mission. CRS supports communities, local partners, and governments in their efforts to ensure that all children–including the most vulnerable and marginalized—have the right to quality education.

As one example, by using machine learning CRS predicts which households will face food scarcity within the next few months, allowing them to respond faster and more efficiently.

12. Save the Children

Save the Children

Save the Children

Save the Children was the first global movement for children, boldly declaring that children have rights. As global leaders, the NGO focuses on child health, education, and protection. Via Innovative Financing, Save the Children has a proven track record of using donations efficiently and effectively to change children’s lives.

How they apply AI for Good

As part of Omdena´s collaboration with Save The Children 61 technology changemakers worked with their Technology for Development and Child Protection team. The team analyzed various data sources such as online forums, articles, games, and more for insights and safety measures. The team also built Natural Language Processing (NLP) models to further analyze and understand patterns to prevent online violence against children.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHPEdKciTW4[/embedyt] 

Let us make 2023 the year of AI for Good

The goal for 2023 is to continue focusing our energies on what really matters, a better world.

“In Africa, there is a concept known as Ubuntu — the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievements of others.” — Nelson Mandela

In the end, we should all collaborate and use AI in the most meaningful way.

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