Google AI Impact challenge: Building a better future

By Imane Chafi


Do you believe that AI could revolutionize the world? Do you have an idea that could help societies by providing social good to those in need? The Google AI impact challenge is the challenge of a lifetime for involved individuals and organizations that have the wellness of others at heart. Artificial intelligence is completely changing the way we interact with others. From object recognition to sensor analysis, AIs can now translate full sentences from video cameras instantly by noticing the symbols shown through the lens and recognizing which language they refer to. The Google AI impact challenge dares others to look beyond the norm and find practical and unique solutions to world problems by using this new technology. If you want to be part of the change, here is what you need to know about the Google AI Impact challenge.


The Goal

The main goal of creating this sort of challenge is to get the community involved in AIs. Google started this challenge to motivate non-profit organizations, research institutions and social organizations by focusing their efforts into learning what AI is and using it to better meet humanity’s needs. If everyone can have access to artificial intelligence resources, the exchange of information will lead to more scientific discoveries and a higher chance of progress overall. Indeed, since their goal isn’t just to use the technology to make inventions, but to make a lasting impact on communities, you need to have a precise real-world problem you want to solve for your idea to be selected. For example, Canada’s previous 2017 Google Impact challenge winners include the Arctic Eider Society, an organisation that made a platform to help Inuit communities navigate through the melting sea ice, a phenomenon caused by climate change. The platform lists live maps of the changing sea ice and even gathers Inuit knowledge of the Canadian Arctic Coastline so that the community can benefit from the shared knowledge.


How to implement AI towards Social Good


To understand how we can use AI technology to solve problems, we first need to know what the Google Impact challenge means by “AI”. Artificial intelligence is a broad subject, and it can often be confused with anything that uses technology to a higher level. Actually, artificial intelligence relies on the adaptive learning process associated with machines that simulate human behavior to make predictions. For example, the Nest adaptative thermostat uses algorithms to learn your heating and cooling patterns and creates a unique room temperature system that changes depending on what time of the day it is and your personal needs. Google remains very broad with its definition of using AI towards social good by indicating that any use of software to predict data, be it via Excel or other sophisticated resources, are welcome. You only need to think of a way to change your community for the better, and they will provide the funding and resources you need to make that change happen. If you’re interested in learning about AI softwares, Google even has its own open source machine learning platform called TensorFlow, which is open to everyone and guides you through the basics of machine learning implementation.




To get a chance at the $25M funding Google gives away each year to the AI impact challenge winner, you need to present an idea that meets the requirements of the competition. The conditions of winning are separated into 5 categories :


  1. Responsibility : Google has a unique set of principles involving AI that your idea must correspond to, and diverging from those principles will result in immediate disqualification. Indeed, as the field of artificial intelligence is rapidly expanding, ethical and moral dilemmas concerning the privacy and security of users have become more prominent. If your idea helps to solve a certain problem, but its implementation requires providing other companies with the user’s private data without their knowledge, chances are it won’t be retained. Indeed, as AIs are deprived of moral compasses, they can only interpret data by learning from the users and acting according to their findings. Thus, there is also a great risk of increasing, proliferating and reinforcing biased ideas if the AI is poorly implemented.


  1. Impact : Before applying to the Google AI challenge, you should ask yourself if your idea will provide a direct impactful change to a community. The idea needs to be precise, feasible and provide a solution to a problem. You’ll also have a greater chance of winning the funding if you have a clear plan on how you want to carry out the AI platform across the community you want to help, how you’ll design your platform and the expected outcomes that will come from using your idea.


  1. Feasibility : An important part of designing a technological entity is to have an idea as to how much work will need to be put into it. If you think that artificial limbs are the way to the future, but have no expertise on the matter, you won’t know how much resources, time and technology you’ll need to bring your idea to life. You should also learn about the limits of today’s AI technology to know if your idea can be implemented without having to wait a couple of years for a new invention to appear.


  1. Use of AI : It goes without saying, the Google AI impact challenge asks for an AI contribution. The project you submit needs to have AI technology at the core of the idea, as one of the goals of the challenge is to promote awareness towards this new machinery. For example, if your project only uses a small text analysis AI software for an optional part of the platform, it will be eliminated from judge review since it won’t correspond to one of the main requirements of the challenge. You’ll need to find a way to implement AI as an integral part of the project.


  1. Scalability : As a last requirement, Google wants to know the potential of your project. Is it a small one-time usage platform too specific to be used elsewhere, or does it give substantial help to communities that can be scaled to world-wide application? Of course, Google looks into the future with this project and thinks about the long-lasting effects your idea might have on the world. However, this requirement is sometimes hard to meet as you never know what kind of idea might change the world. Take Post-its for example — who would have thought that bright pieces of sticky paper might become a must-have for offices around the world?


Now that you know the requirements of the challenge and its philosophy, why not try to come up with a creative idea to help solve a problem in the world. The idea doesn’t have to be grandiose or use complicated softwares. If it can help others by providing social aid, ending injustices or just assisting the elderly by making their life easier, the idea is good enough for this challenge. There is a reason why it is called a challenge, and not a contest or a competition. Google wants to challenge the minds of innovative thinkers into imagining a world where everyone could benefit from technologies, thus making that world a reality.

The purpose of this challenge is to get rid of the perceived idea that software, coding and AI are abstract and complicated subjects that only some individuals can master. Coding is just another language, like Spanish or English, that anyone can understand and is sometimes even easier to understand since it deals with human reason. The possibility of giving everyone an equal chance of changing the world is what this challenge is all about. The deadline for the 2019 application has passed, but it gives you enough time to think about your idea and plan it for 2020. If you have a non-profit organisation that is close to your heart, and you have an idea involving AIs that everyone could benefit from, give them a call, set up a meeting and discuss the possibilities of entering the Google AI Impact challenge to change the world for the better.

For more information on the Google AI Impact Challenge, you can check out their website:



One Comment;

  1. MC said:

    Very impressive approach and intelligent analysis, continue to publish articles and synthesis of actual topics. MC