What Does Artificial Intelligence Mean For Nonprofit Organizations?


by Tal Frankfurt

Artificial Intelligence is an area of computer science that trains machines to perform tasks that would normally be done by humans. There has been a lot of buzz — both positive and negative — around AI over the last few years. In 2016, Microsoft CEO Staya Nadella declared that “bots are the new apps.” Last year, Elon Musk warned about the dangers of AI and the rise of the robots. We live in an era with billions of devices that are actively learning us and each other. This is one of the reasons digital transformation has the potential to influence nearly every aspect of our lives.

While there has been an increase in conversations about AI over the past few years, we all have been seeing its effects for quite some time. AI is how Netflix is able to suggest a video that you might enjoy, Amazon is able to recommend a product that you may need next week based on past purchases, and it is also how your email filters spam messages that you do not want to receive in your inbox. AI is already a part of our day-to-day lives, and it will continue to be prevalent for years to come.

Organizations are becoming more aware of the power of AI and are actively searching for ways to bring AI into their respective communities, expand their offerings and improve upon operational capabilities.

Below, I will explore three AI focus areas and their implications for nonprofit organizations.

Machine Learning And Process Automation

The first focus area is the cognitive automation of machine learning and process automation. Robots can already build cars, move inventory in large warehouses and even perform surgeries. The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) did a better job on the operating table than human surgeons who were given the same task.

Handwriting, mapping and image recognition are a few of the examples of how AI can increase operational efficiencies of high volume or workflow based work. Take organizations such as iNaturalist and eBird, which are using AI to identify hundreds of thousands of species that were crowd-sourced by their community of scientists. Without AI, it would take decades to go through each of these images manually.

With AI and deep-learning systems, a computer learns to classify what it sees in coral reef pictures in just a matter of months. Coral researchers are embracing advances in computer science and software, accelerating under-sea mapping of reefs around the world. AI is helping the scientific community advance further and learn more in shorter periods of time.

Engaging With Humans

The second AI focus area involves employing cognitive technology to engage with people. The most common example of this is the voice-enabled device. Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and other devices will turn lighting off and on or lower a thermostat based on human commands.

Chatbots, or bots, are becoming great tools for nonprofits and activists to engage with and educate their communities. Two great examples of bots include…READ MORE