Facebook introduces AI initiative for disaster relief, blood donations and more

Facebook introduces AI initiative for disaster relief, blood donations and more
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Pixabay
28 Mar, 2019

Social media behemoth Facebook has announced a slew of initiatives to deliver social and inclusive growth by using emerging technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), the company said in a media statement.

Under the initiative, the Silicon Valley-based social networking giant has developed a tool that connects blood banks and hospitals with blood donor groups. The company had also developed and has been providing disaster maps to aid agencies so that relief can reach people faster, it added.

Facebook hosted an ‘AI for India Summit’ in Bengaluru on Wednesday, which brought AI thought-leaders, startups, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the developer community together to plan its accelerator programme and scholarships for people doing innovation in these areas, it said in the press statement.

“We have always sought opportunities to deploy the best of our expertise as an ally for India's economic growth and social development and this summit is our effort to understand how we can contribute to the development of deep tech in India, as well as corral resources to use these technologies to develop impactful solutions for tough and persistent problems,” said Ajit Mohan, vice president and managing director of Facebook India.

According to Facebook, more than 35 million people have signed up to be blood donors globally till date. It added that internal surveys have found that one in five people had been influenced by Facebook in their decision to donate blood.

An instance of the firm’s use of AI is its partnership with NGO SEEDS India during the 2018 Kerala floods. The company prepared disaster maps that aggregated and de-identified its own data to track people’s movement and was also able to demarcate between the flood-hit and safe zones. This information helped SEEDS and other humanitarian organisations appropriately time their early recovery and relief operations, the company said.

Mohan said that the company was committed to growing the local AI ecosystem by providing support to startups, the student and developer community, and by ensuring diversity within the ecosystem.

Facebook's India Innovation Accelerator will focus on AI for Social Good, which will mentor and support startups that are leveraging AI to address gaps within the high social impact areas of women safety, agriculture, education, healthcare, climate change and resilient cities, among many others, the company said.

Meanwhile, a hundred scholarships are also being offered by the company for students and developers, which will help them to gain access to advanced courses on deep learning. Facebook is also planning to conduct 'Women in AI' hackathons to ensure diversity. It had recently partnered with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras to provide the winners with courses on AI and ML.

Under the Facebook Hubs programme, it will also conduct extensive, application-based AI training with a host of startups across 20 locations in India to help entrepreneurs scale their businesses through training, mentorships and workshops.

“With the ‘AI for India Summit’, we have raised awareness for Facebook's AI vision and strategy, which we hope will help us apply AI for social changes. We have listened and learned from the local think-tanks, NGOs, and developers. We are excited about advancing AI in a responsible and inclusive manner to build products and experiences tailored for India," said Ragavan Srinivasan, product director for Facebook AI.