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Microsoft Introduces $40 mn Programme For Recovering Humanitarian Crisis

The company said it would collaborate with NGOs and humanitarian organisations to accelerate breakthrough solutions to help monitor, detect and prevent human rights abuses

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Hackers bleeding large Indian firms by $10 mn on average each year: Microsoft. (Wikimedia commons)
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Microsoft on Monday launched a new $40-million programme aimed at harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for disaster recovery, helping children, protecting refugees and displaced people and promoting respect for human rights.

The tech giant said it would execute the five-year programme by working deeply with select non-governmental and humanitarian organisations through grants, investment of technology and shared expertise.

Unveiled at the annual “Microsoft Ignite 2018” conference here, the programme called “AI for Humanitarian Action” is part of Microsoft’s “AI for Good initiative” that was launched in July last year.

“Today, in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly meeting, we are announcing AI for Humanitarian Action, a new $40-million dollar five-year Microsoft programme,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith.

“We believe that technology, like AI combined with Cloud technology, can be a game changer, helping save more lives, alleviate suffering and restore human dignity by changing the way frontline relief organisations anticipate, predict, and better target response efforts,” Smith added in a blog post.

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A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge. VOA

At the conference, Microsoft also released an array of security programmes and products.

Among them are “Microsoft Secure Score” — a dynamic report card that assesses Microsoft 365 customer environments and makes recommendations that can reduce breaches up to 30-fold — and “Microsoft Authenticator”, which helps make secure sign-on easier for workers with features like password-free login.

“In this era of the intelligent Cloud and intelligent edge, businesses in every industry are looking for a trusted partner to help them transform,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in his keynote address.

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“We are pushing the bounds in AI, edge computing and IoT (Internet of Things), while providing end-to-end security to empower every organisation to build its own digital capability and thrive in this new era,” Nadella added.

Microsoft said its “AI for Humanitarian Action” programme will accelerate the pace of innovation by managing strategic AI projects that demonstrate new applications, delivering reusable solutions and partnering with others to expand and scale initial projects.

AI can address humanitarian causes in myriad ways. For example, AI technologies like machine vision can quickly analyse images of roads damaged or destroyed by an event, making way for a faster and safer response, Smith explained.

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. Microsoft says it’s requiring its U.S. suppliers to offer their employees at least 12 weeks paid leave to care for a new child. The company announced the new parental leave policy Thursday. VOA

“In a new partnership with the World Bank, United Nations, and partners from the tech industry, relief organisations will be better able to predict when and where future famines will occur so aid can arrive earlier, potentially saving more lives,” the Microsoft President noted.

AI and Machine Learning (ML) also have the potential to improve the lives of approximately 68 million displaced people in the world, 28 million of whom are refugees.

“AI can help optimise the delivery of aid, supplies, and services to refugees and can scale NGOs’ efforts to communicate and understand displaced peoples’ needs,” Smith explained.

The company said it would collaborate with NGOs and humanitarian organisations to accelerate breakthrough solutions to help monitor, detect and prevent human rights abuses.

“We are hopeful the world will see what a compelling force for good AI can be when it’s used well in partnership with innovative NGOs. By ensuring technology fulfils its promise to address the broadest societal needs, we can empower everyone to achieve more,” Smith noted. (IANS)

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Microsoft Wants Regulation For Facial Recognition Technology To Start in 2019

Microsoft is one of several companies playing a leading role in developing facial recognition technology

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A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge. VOA

Given the potential for abuse of the fast advancing facial recognition technology, governments across the world need to start adopting laws to regulate this technology in 2019, Microsoft President Brad Smith has said.

“Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues,” warned Smith in a blog post on Thursday.

“The time for action has arrived,” he said, adding that the industry must also exercise restraint while using this technology.

Speaking of the benefits of the technology, the Microsoft President mentioned that police in New Delhi recently trialled facial recognition technology and identified almost 3,000 missing children in four days.

Similarly, historians in the US have used the technology to identify the portraits of unknown soldiers in Civil War photographs taken in the 1860s.

Researchers successfully used facial recognition software to diagnose a rare, genetic disease in Africans, Asians and Latin Americans.

And in October, the National Australia Bank designed a proof of concept to enable customers to withdraw money from an Automatic Teller Machine using facial recognition and a PIN.

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Regulation for facial recognition technology must start in 2019: Microsoft. Pixabay

But at the same time, the potential for abuse of this technology is huge, Smith said, adding that certain uses of this technology could lead to biased decisions and discrimination.

Moreover, the widespread use of this technology can lead to new intrusions into people’s privacy, he said.

“The use of facial recognition technology by a government for mass surveillance can encroach on democratic freedoms,” Smith added.

Also Read- Fujifilm Launches its Medium Format Mirrorless Camera in India

“While we believe that new laws and regulations are indispensable, we also recognise that they are not a substitute for the responsibility that needs to be exercised by tech companies,” he said.

Microsoft is one of several companies playing a leading role in developing facial recognition technology.

The company, Smith said, would start adopting new principles to manage the issues surrounding facial recognition technology in the first quarter of 2019. (IANS)