The year is almost over, and we are all preparing for a merry Christmas time with our friends and families. This is a perfect time to take a step back and look at what happened at MI4People in the past year, and it is exactly what we would like to do with you in this newsletter.
MI4People was founded in the end of 2021, the year 2022 was the first year for us where our operations really took off: many volunteers joined us on various project – these talented individuals are spending their free time to develop MI and AI applications for Public Good. With the help of our volunteers, we started several projects and generated many great ideas for further projects, won new partners and supporters, participated at different events, and increased public awareness of MI4People.
In this newsletter, we would like to share with you some interesting facts, so that you can better understand our progress and challenges we face.
This year over 40 volunteers were active for MI4People’s projects, most of them will stay active also in the next year, and we expect many more new volunteers to join in 2023. Our volunteers are mainly AI students and AI/Data Science experts from industry. But we also have data engineers, visualization experts, pro bono supporting lawyers, social media natives, and business experts on board.
Our volunteers are very diverse. They come from various cultures and countries like Germany, Morocco, India, South Korea, Italy, Australia, Ghana, Lebanon, Indonesia, Turkey, Lithuania, and USA. Roughly 25% of our volunteers are women what is a relatively high fraction for the area of AI.
Our running Projects
Currently, we have four running projects:
Soil Quality Evaluation System: a project where we utilize satellite images and computer vision to predict soil quality in developing regions. This information will be used to support small farmers, local authorities, and nonprofits for better decision-making regarding soil cultivation and agriculture.
General Computer Vision for Healthcare: in this project our volunteers are creating an AI system that can help doctors in developing countries to make more precise diagnoses based on medical imagery. This will help to fight the shortage of medical workers in developing regions. Currently, we are focusing on diagnosis of pathologies in chest region based on x-ray images.
CoVision: is an AI-based classification system of rapid CoVid tests for visually impaired and blind people. This mobile app will enable blind and visually impaired to perform and evaluate rapid antigen CoVid tests by themselves. It will increase the convenience and privacy for this group of people and make the tests more accessible. Here, our volunteers are very close to releasing the beta version!
Marine Litter Detection via Satellites: the goal of this project is to create an AI-infused Computer Vision system that can identify debris like plastics floating in the oceans and seas and other marine litter and their locations and sizes from satellite images in (almost) real-time. It will allow better strategical decision making and better coordination of ocean cleaning efforts, will be used to strengthen public awareness on this topic, and to help further research of this problem.
All these projects are very diverse and technically challenging. Some of them are planned to run for several years before a stable version can be applied broadly in practice. But benefits of them are much larger than the required effort and, so, our volunteers are working with burning hearts and souls on them!
We have several further projects ideas that are currently in ideation and preparation phases. Several volunteers are already working on these ideas, but before we can go public with these projects, some tests must be done, and some issues must be resolved. Here is a couple of promising examples of possible projects in the near future:
An analysis of data from Mekong Plus – a nonprofit organization that provides the poorest families in Vietnam with microcredits with the aim to improve financial situation of these people. Our volunteers are currently analyzing whether the historical loan data of Mekong Plus contains insights about most relevant factors for succeeding families to come out of poverty/increase their income. We are also thinking about an AI model that can help Mekong Plus to allocate their resources better to maximize the income increase within the poorest in Vietnam.
An AI-infused app that can evaluate and interpret results from urine stripe tests. Then these very cheap tests and our planed app can be distributed among people in developing regions with bad access to healthcare for free, so, that people in these regions can control and (roughly) evaluate their health without a doctor.
Easy to understand and access portal for open data: there are plenty of open data delivered by states, research, or other organizations. These data are often used to make important decisions relevant for the whole country or to create a public opinion or attitude, mainly by news portals. However, this data is very difficult to access and to understand by regular people. Our data engineers, visualization experts, and data journalists want to create a portal where open data is gathered, aggregated, explained, and attractively visualized for regular people. We plan to start with economical data for various regions in Germany and our experts have already begun with preliminary studies.
Wildlife audio detection system that can automatically identify the voices of the most species living on earth and can be applied by wildlife researchers, NPOs, and natural reserve parks to estimate, control and protect populations of endangered species. It can also be applied to assist in prevention of poaching and illegal deforestation (via identification of sounds of human activities like chainsaw, truck, and guns). We already found data to train such AI system but need to label them before we can start training. We are currently searching for a solution of this issue.
We are constantly working on spreading the idea of Machine Intelligence working for Public Good. Our main channel is thereby LinkedIn. MI4People’s LinkedIn page has already reached over 1,000 followers and our posts are viewed 3,000-5,000 times each month!
Further, we participated at TUM.ai’s “AI for Social Good Makeathon” where we have hosted a challenge (Computer Vision for Healthcare project). This event helped us to find many new engaged volunteers, connect with many talented students, and define and kick-off the CoVision-project.
We also won the German Digital Social award 2022 in the category Innovation & Future and could promote MI4People at the corresponding award ceremony! This award was initiated by several big international and German companies and nonprofits like Siemens, Orange Business Services, Capgemini, AfB Group, Stiftung Bürgermut, German Foundation for Engagement and Volunteering, WHU Center for Non-Profit Management and Digital Social Impact, and ZiviZ in the Stifterverband.
We are very happy that we received such an award, and this within the first year of our existence! Further, the award ceremony was a great platform for us to share our mission and create valuable connections.
Finally, we recently kicked-off our MI4People’s Ambassadors program! MI4People Ambassadors are volunteers from business, MI professionals, public persons or committed non-profit representatives who help us spread the ideas and the mission of MI4People in the broad public domain, strengthen our network, and find further supporters and sponsors. We could already win two extremely engaged Ambassadors: Marc Haarmeier – general manager digital DACH at Acolad Group –, and Philipp Schwab – chairman of the board at Chance to Grow e.V., and hope to win many further ambassadors soon!
Our Partnering Organizations
We have also created connections to various organizations and companies that either benefit from our work or support our mission. Here are the most important examples:
Alexander Thamm ([AT]): is a German Data Science Consulting agency that provides volunteers for our Marine Litter Detection project. These volunteers are allowed to work on our project during their regular working time!
Bayerischer Blinden- und Sehbehindertenbund is a Bavarian NPO for blind and visually impaired. They provide us with their expertise for our CoVision project and will help distribute the app.
Mekong Plus is providing microcredits to poor families in Vietnam. Our collaboration was already mentioned above.
Deutsche Stiftung für Engagement und Ehrenamt is an NPO in control of the German state and help us with consultancy and networking within nonprofit sector.
ReDI School is a German likewise-minded nonprofit that teaches migrants and refugees IT skills and Chance to Grow is an NPO supporting children in Vietnam. We became very good friends with both these established NPOs, and they help us networking and support us with their experience!
AI Ethics Committee
With MI/AI, we have an instrument of great transformational power at our disposal which must also be used responsibly. Like every technology, AI is neither good nor evil – it is neutral and has no moral values. But at MI4People our goals are charitable! Therefore, we always want to check our actions and efforts for ethical standards and potentially also help other NPOs use AI ethically. Therefore, we launched an AI Ethics Committee as part of MI4People initiatives.
The AI Ethics Committee is intended to open MI4People to non-AI-professionals and to foster interdisciplinary discussions within our organization on the topic of AI and ethics. Our activities are for the common good - there are many ethical issues involved in which lawyers, medical professionals, AI researchers, and representatives of other disciplines can make a valuable contribution to the development of organizations such as ours. The key goals of our AI Ethics Committee are:
Promote ethical discussions about the applications of AI and, where appropriate, limitations of AI development
Supporting the continued development of AI research at MI4People by setting an ethical framework
Further development of MI4People's goals and project plans through discussions on public good orientation from different perspectives (medicine, legal, social sciences, etc.)
Our Financial Stability
We started with a certain amount of capital donated by the founders of MI4People. Throughout the year, private and crowd sourced contributions, a donation from ALDI SÜD (a big German retailer), and the prize money from German Digital Social Award added approximately 8K euros to our operating capital. There were also some cloud computing credits from Amazon/AWS and Microsoft/Azure totaling 4.5K euros.
We have been very careful with our expenditure. Most of the operational costs were incurred due to expenses for notary, lawyer, tax advisor, and regulatory filings. There were small expenditures due to our participation in TUM.ai Makeathon, AI/ML training dataset preparation for the CoVision project, and costs for required cloud computing for creation and training AI/ML models that could not be covered by the credits from AWS and Azure.
All technical, project management, and marketing work has been done by MI4People volunteers for free.
We estimate that with the remaining funds and some anticipated small donations, we should be able to run MI4People’s operation through 2023 healthily at the current level of activity. However, and as explained below, for MI4People to have sustained operational stability and the fuel for growth, we would require more substantial donations from individuals, foundations, government agencies, and corporations. We are in the process of seeking out such contacts. If you can help us in cash or kind, including connecting us to potential donors, we would be most grateful.
Our Current Challenges
We strongly believe that in the last year we proved that our concept of highly skilled tech-volunteers working on Public Good projects works! We are running four projects, many are being planned, and we are already getting public attention.
While we started MI4People as an experiment, we can conclude that it became more than just an experiment and we want MI4People to become an established organization that can positively impact the lives of many people!
Therefore, we must create more projects and increase the intensity of the existing ones. This, however, will require long-term committed project leads who can lead several projects/volunteer teams in parallel, partially over several years. For current projects this position is occupied by one of the co-founders who is also a volunteer. In the current setup we are not able to scale.
Therefore, we need more and larger donations (also institutional donations) in order to hire several full-time project leads, to be able to scale our operations, increase the number of projects and the impact we create. This is currently our main challenge. We are constantly working on solving it, but we also need your support. If you like to donate or promote our cause or connect us with potential (institutional) donors, we will be extremely thankful for your help!
Together we will make the world a better place, for all of us!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Wishing you health and happiness!
Your MI4People Team