Microsoft pledges another $50 million for its AI for Earth initiative

In July, Microsoft announced the launch of "AI for Earth," a program intended to leverage AI to tackle some of the "biggest environmental challenges of our time." Today, Microsoft revealed that it is expanding its efforts with a further $50 million commitment over the next five years.

At launch, Microsoft initially committed just $2 million to the initiative over the next fiscal year. The push to $50 million represents a major increase in resources, most of which will go towards equipping outside organizations and intritutions with the AI tools needed to take on water, agriculture, biodiversity, and climate change problems.

In a blog post announcing the commitment, Brad Smith, Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer, said:

At Microsoft, we believe artificial intelligence is a game changer. Our approach as a company is focused on democratizing AI so its features and capabilities can be put to use by individuals and organizations around the world to improve real-world outcomes. There are few societal areas where AI can be more impactful than in helping address the urgent work needed to monitor, model and manage the earth's natural systems.

Microsoft is positioning AI as the catalyst for interpreting the vast amounts of raw data coming in from sensors around the world. The bet is that AI will be able to present this information in an actionable way, helping to more quickly and effectively address global environmental issues.

The AI for Earth program is part of a larger effort by Microsoft, and the tech industry as a whole, focused on the benefits of AI. Microsoft has been explicit in its intentions to "democratize AI". The hope is, as Smith says, that AI will help to solve some of the world's most pressing problems.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl