Microsoft announces AI and Sustainability playbook
Microsoft has published its playbook for accelerating sustainability solutions with the help of artificial intelligence.
Speaking at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Microsoft’s chief sustainability officer, Melanie Nakagawa, shared that the firm hopes the playbook will help Microsoft, its customers, and business work together to unlock AI’s ability to help with their sustainability solutions in five points.
Nakagawa highlighted the first point in the playbook, which is the need to invest in AI to “accelerate and scale sustainability solutions”.
The CSO pressed that AI solutions are possible, “but they require investment and deep partnerships. This is a path we must seek together”.
Microsoft itself has a Climate Innovation Fund portfolio of companies it invests in, which include AI solutions such as businesses that are using the technology to decarbonise electricity grids, and others that are providing farmers with AI to help “meet the world’s food needs while using less resources”.
The playbook also covers the need to develop the data and digital infrastructure needed for an “exclusive use of AI for sustainability”.
“Despite the rapid growth in new data that is out there, there still remain major gaps in the world’s environmental data, with uneven geographic coverage and challenges that we have in accessing much of this data.”
The third part of playbook will detail the need to minimise the resource use in AI operations.
“As the infrastructure needed to support AI models expands, demand for resources such as energy and water will rise,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post.
However, the company is confident that “innovation can curb demand”.
“We’ve been innovating the design and operations of our own data centres to conserve power, reduce emissions, and even contribute energy back to the grid,” explains Nakagawa.
For example, in Finland, two of Microsoft’s data centres are designed to harness their heat waste and contribute it back to the district’s heating system.
The playbook also highlights a need to advance AI policy principles and governance for sustainability.
It writes that governments have an opportunity to enable the positive impacts of AI by designing policies that contribute to sustainability outcomes, while also reducing the resource impact that will come as a result of increased demand for AI.
Finally, Microsoft acknowledges that the increasing demand for AI and sustainability will also mean an increasing demand for a skilled workforce.
“Microsoft recently launched the AI Skills Initiative,” said Nakagawa. “As workers advance their skills, they can progress to technical AI skilling on the Microsoft learn platform.”
“With AI, we’ve been given the opportunity to generate and scale breakthroughs that we need to accelerate sustainability progress at a pace the world has never seen before.”
“I encourage you to come join us on this journey, explore that unexpected path, and see where it takes you.”
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