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Facebook hosts AI for social good summit, announces key initiatives

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MUMBAI: Facebook has announced a host of initiatives dedicated to delivering social and inclusive growth by harnessing the power of emerging technologies led by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The announcements were made at Facebook's inaugural AI for India Summit held in Bengaluru that focused on AI for Social Good. The summit was attended by AI thought-leaders, start-ups, NGOs, and the developer community. 

Kicking-off the day long summit, Ajit Mohan, Vice President and Managing Director, Facebook India, said, “At Facebook, we are developing and leveraging cutting-edge technologies for products we develop around the world. From developing a tool to swiftly connect blood banks and hospitals with blood donors to utilizing Disaster Maps to aid the relief work during the 2018 Kerala Floods, we have always sought opportunities to deploy the best of our expertise in the service of India. We are 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.”

Talking about AI for Social Good, Facebook spoke about its Blood Donation tool, which helps connect blood banks and hospitals to blood donors who have registered themselves on the platform. Facebook said that to date, more than 35 million people have signed up to be donors globally. In order to understand its impact, Facebook partnered with blood banks in India and Brazil to conduct in-person surveys and found that one in five people said that Facebook influenced their decision to donate blood. 

Facebook also spoke about how AI can play a crucial role in times of crisis, and cited its efforts during the 2018 Kerala Floods when in partnership with SEEDS India, an NGO, it quickly prepared disaster maps for the state. The maps use aggregated and de-identified Facebook data to track people’s movement and were able to demarcate between the flood-hit and safe zones. This information helped SEEDS and other humanitarian organizations appropriately time their early recovery and relief operations. 

“At Facebook we are also committed to growing the local AI ecosystem, which can be achieved by providing support to start-ups, to the student community, and by ensuring diversity within the ecosystem itself. That's the thought behind our key announcements today around AI for India Accelerator, trainings and scholarships for students and developers, and 'Women in AI' hackathons,”  added Mohan.

India Innovation Accelerator: Facebook announced the India Innovation Accelerator program with a focus on AI for Social Good. Under this program Facebook will extend mentorship and support to promising 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.

100 Scholarships for students and developers: Facebook also announced 100 scholarships for students and developers focused on nurturing their ideas for utilizing AI for social good. The scholarships will enable the students to gain access to advanced courses on Deep Learning. 

'Women in AI' Hackathons: Determined to encourage diversity within the ecosystem, Facebook has announced AI Hackathons that are aimed at encouraging women developers and women-led start-ups focused on AI. The winners will be provided courses on AI and ML by professors of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras.

AI Trainings: Under Facebook's recently announced, Facebook Hubs program, it will conduct extensive, application-based AI trainings with a host of startups across 20 locations in India. Aimed at helping startups and entrepreneurs scale their businesses, Facebook Hubs will extend support for the community by hosting mentor hours and conducting training and workshops.

Ragavan Srinivasan, Product Director, Facebook AI said, “The AI for India Summit is our first step in what we hope to be a fruitful journey of applying AI to solve India specific needs. We've raised awareness for Facebook's AI vision and strategy. More importantly, we've listened and learned from the local think-tanks, NGOs, and developers. We're excited about advancing AI in a responsible and inclusive manner to build products and experiences tailored for India."

The day-long summit held on March 26th saw discussions on how AI could be utilized to make advancements in healthcare, education, agriculture, and crisis/disaster mitigation in line with the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence that was outlined by NITI Aayog last year. The summit was attended by Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, and members from academia, leading think-tanks, NGOs, students, and developer community.

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