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Microsoft Industry Blogs - United Kingdom

Humans are capable of amazing things. We’ve sequenced the human genome, visited the moon, and created medicines to help treat people. Technology has been beside us through all of these discoveries and journeys which is why we believe that AI has the potential to help us solve humanitarian issues and create a more sustainable and accessible world, including increasing digital inclusion.

AI for human ingenuity

Members of the AI for Good cohort meet in February.This ethos is at the heart of our AI for Good Accelerator programme, created in partnership with the Social Tech Trust, a charity that provides the investment and support needed for social tech ventures to grow and scale their social impact. It’s open to UK start-ups who are developing a solution that focusses on one of four areas: AI for Earth, AI for Accessibility, AI for Humanitarian Action and AI for Cultural Heritage.

When technology is built with inclusivity at heart, it has the ability to ensure everyone can stay empowered, especially as we rely on more digital forms of connecting. For example, Live captioning in virtual meetings can help those who are hard of hearing or are in noisy rooms.

2020 saw our world change the way we work and connect, leaning more on digital solutions. When the lockdown closed stores and in-person services in the UK, people moved to digital services. It’s important to ensure these services are accessible for everyone. Some of the members of the AI for Good cohort are directly addressing digital inclusion with their solutions.

Digital inclusion to vital services

Signly is helping people who are deaf, hard of hearing and have British Sign Language (BSL) as a first language by serving up pre-recorded, broadcast quality signed content, signed by real people, in-browser. While users can use the browser extension to request specific pages, some companies are taking the step to have pages already translated for users. Lloyds Banking Group recently asked Signly to inject sign language into their website so that deaf users had entirely equal access.

Improving communications for everyone

To reflect our multicultural society, it’s important we have the ability to easily translate information into the right language so everyone has the same understanding. Akari Translation Studio is helping employees manage workload and easily support customer’s individual needs. Users can upload multiple documents and translate it into one of 60 languages, using AI to ensure the document has the correct context. For example, a tenancy agreement can be translated into another language, as well as the communication around it.

Helping build resilience

Members of the AI for Good cohort meet in February.Our increased use of technology has bought different stressors and affected people in different ways. For those remote working, they may find themselves blurring the line between work and life. To ensure employee wellbeing, it important to check up on everyone. MyCognition has built an accessible platform that helps monitor, treat and increase mental resilience. The app creates personalised on-demand programmes to help users reduce stress and improve mental health.

AI for good

These three companies are providing vital services that amplify human capability to ensure everyone is included in the digital future – a core stance of our AI for Accessibility platform.

They, along with the rest of our AI for Good cohort have two things in common: They all are creating positive social transformation and using technology to power that. GrantTree, who helps innovative UK companies find government funding, spoke to some of cohort on their What Comes Next? Podcast. Hear their stories on how they are solving some of the world’s biggest problems.

Episode 1

The start of the AI for Good series, What Comes Next? learns about how Signly improves access to websites for people who use BSL as their first language and Akari Solutions is increasing access to vital services with auto-translation. They also find out about how MyCognition is building mental resilience with AI.

Episode 2

What Comes Next? talks to Hello Lamp Post, an app that lets users interact with their built environment in order to learn or give feedback to urban planners. They also learn about how Recycleye is using machine vision to revolutionise recycling. They learn about how Baobab Connect improves access to the justice system via legal connection.

Episode 3

Learn about how BeneTalk can improve speech therapy outcomes with its unique mix of wearable app, online counselling, and eventually personalised support delivered via an AI that helps people who stutter to access training and support. Good Boost is also providing personalised water-based rehabilitation program with AI to people with musculoskeletal problems. Finally, discover how OrxaGrid uses advanced machine learning algorithms and IoT sensors to create detailed analytics about our energy networks and the demands placed upon them by next generation technologies.

Episode 4

The final episode of the series, the team learn about how miiCARE uses a combination of AI and home-monitoring tools to protect the elderly and how Ecosync harnesses AI to reduce heat and energy waste in buildings. In addition, they take a look back on the series.

Three ways you can increase digital inclusion

Members of the AI for Good cohort meet in February.It’s important that whether we work remotely, or are heading back into the office to ensure we meet everyone’s needs. As part of our Resilient Operations Report, we took a look at a number of ways you can build agile teams. This included how you can ensure everyone is connected, while keeping digital inclusion at the heart:

Improve communication

Look for communication tools that let you use a mix of audio, video, and chat. That way your employees can be comfortable to communicate whatever way that suits them. Microsoft Teams has extra accessibility tools such as live captioning, screen blurring, narrations and more, to help people work in their best way.

Use tools that are accessible by design

Over 70 percent of disabilities are invisible. There’s also situational challenges that people need support or assistance for. That’s why it’s important to ensure your documents, presentations, and communications are suited for all. Have captions, providing recordings or transcripts of meetings allows your people to review and follow at their own pace. Make sure your presentations and documents are inclusive by using the Accessibility Checker in Microsoft 365.

Building inclusive tools

Building voice, vision, and other cognitive capabilities into applications will increase accessibility and usage. Your developers will be able to do this with Azure Cognitive Services.Snapshot of the Digital Inclusion page on the Resilience Report

Find out more

Resilient Operations Report

What Comes Next? Podcast,

4 skills organisations can embrace to use AI for social good

Be part of our next AI for Good cohort

Tools to empower your development team

Build accessibility into your apps

About the author

Eve Joseph, UK Responsibility ManagerSince joining Microsoft 12 years ago, Eve has taken on numerous challenges which have continually driven her capabilities and expertise. Using her strong communications skills, she prides herself on putting customers and employees first and will always strive to ensure Microsoft’s commitment to them is met. In her role as the Responsibility manager, she creates and manages relevant CSR projects within the UK, focusing programmes where she believes we can truly deliver impact, align to our business model, and positively amplify Microsoft’s society brand. Eve works closely with key influencers across the sector, building strategic partnerships and reaching customers with relevant content that showcases the value and relevance of Microsoft technology. She manages key programmes like the AI for Good activity, Environmental Sustainability, Employee Volunteering and Giving, and Accessibility.

Eve is hugely passionate about Environmental Sustainability and the impact the ever changing modern life has on the planet. Technology has a significant role to play in reducing our impact and offering innovative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. She is also fascinated by the Charitable sector and the valuable contribution it makes to UK society – which is often under the radar and largely unrecognised. Coupling this with her love for technology, she is able to work in areas that keep her highly motivated and driven to exceed the targets she is challenged with.

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