Foundation commits $40M to advancing AI and data for good

Categories: Announcements , Emergent AI + Society , Tech for Good

BOSTON, Jan. 28, 2021 — As AI and data increasingly influence our individual lives and shape the fabric of our shared future, questions about how to ensure these tools benefit humanity have never been more urgent.

Today, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation is announcing that it will double its groundbreaking investments in data science and AI grantmaking in 2021 with a new commitment of $40 million and introduce new initiatives to accelerate opportunity and innovation in the development of inclusive, ethical data and AI.

“We sit at the frontier of the digital age with a set of choices about the future of these powerful tools,” said Foundation President Vilas Dhar. “Will it be a future where control remains in the hands of a few to benefit the elite? Or a future where we all participate in the co-creation of AI and data that solves our greatest global challenges and makes our individual lives better? Our 2021 commitments aim to disrupt the status quo by empowering civil society to fully participate in shaping the future so that the benefits of AI and data are shared by all.”

The Foundation’s three-pillar commitment includes:

  1. A $40 million commitment to data science and AI for public good: These grants will enable nonprofits and NGOs to leverage AI and data to further their work to protect the planet, foster economic prosperity, ensure healthy communities, strengthen tech education opportunities for young people, and create a more inclusive, equitable tech workforce for the future. Grants will also be directed toward organizations designing new approaches to data dignity, data stewardship, and AI ethics.
  2. A new data and AI services consultancy for non-profits: With technical support and additional resources, non-profits around the world can better leverage the tools of data science and AI. Through a new philanthropically funded consultancy launching this spring, the Foundation’s in-house team of data and AI experts will work directly with non-profit organizations to develop data maturity and infrastructure, and create exemplar cases of AI used for public good.
  3. Fostering an inclusive tech, data and AI ecosystem: The Foundation is an active participant and convener in developing a global culture of responsible and inclusive AI and data. Through collaborations with organizations including Oxford, MIT, The Trinity Challenge, MIT Solve,, AI4All, and the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, the Foundation will catalyze efforts to bring stakeholders together, elevate diverse perspectives on the future of AI, and inspire young technologists to pursue tech for public good. A key focus area will be seeking out and including non-traditional and marginalized voices to ensure that the development of AI benefits everyone.

As part of this commitment, the Foundation is also announcing support for the World Economic Forum’s new Global AI Action Alliance. Mr. Dhar will co-chair this global alliance of more than 100 leading companies, governments, international organizations, nonprofits, and academics committed to maximizing the benefits of AI.

“In the future, AI and data science can be among our most powerful tools to achieve good in the world, but that future is not guaranteed,” said the World Economic Forum’s Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning. “The support of philanthropic partners is essential if we want to change the status quo and direct technology to serve the public good. These new commitments by the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation to grantmaking, consultancy, and community building will powerfully accelerate our shared vision for ethical AI and data.”