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The World Mosquito Program Asia Hub office in Ho Chi Minh City happens to share a building with Microsoft. Microsoft has plenty of meeting rooms. WMP not always enough. 

So when WMP Director, Scott O’Neill bumped into a Microsoft employee in the lift, he had to ask the question – was there any chance we could borrow a meeting room from time to time? 

The answer was no. But the question prompted a conversation about a potential partnership. 

Microsoft’s AI for Earth connects people and organizations with cloud and AI technology to help them solve global environmental challenges.

The World Mosquito Program has the idea. The Wolbachia method has already proven that it can help end the spread of mosquito-borne disease. In places where Wolbachia has successfully been established in a mosquito population, there have been no dengue outbreaks. The challenge we face now is deploying the method on a global scale. 

Ben Green is the Project Delivery Manager of Digital Technology at WMP. After Scott’s meeting in the lift with Microsoft, it was Ben and Head of Philanthropy, Enrica Longo who were sent upstairs to investigate the potential for partnership. 

“Our aim is to establish Wolbachia as broadly as possible. If we can collaborate and bring in the expertise that helps us use our data to improve the efficiency of our implementation, that’s the only way we can succeed to scale up in the way we intend to.”
Ben Green
Satellite

Microsoft invited WMP to explore possibilities with one of their own partners, Singapore based data science consulting company, Gramener.  Using Artificial Intelligence to help collect and analyse data on a massive scale is Gramener’s thing. 

One of the key challenges facing WMP’s ambition to scale is scoping potential sites. We need to identify the areas within a city where our Wolbachia mosquitoes can have the most impact. An accurate map of the human population density can help guide the most impactful and cost-effective distribution of mosquito release points.   

This is where Gramener can help. They have the tools and expertise to use AI to predict population density on a massive scale through satellite technology. 

“The AI model,” says Ben, “can give us 100 square metre grids of an area and provide a prediction of the human population density in each one of those grids. So it can tell us where most of the people are living within a city. Thereby telling us where we should release most of our Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes.” 

Delphine Guenther is Philanthropies Lead for Microsoft in Singapore. As she partners with nonprofits on advancing society through technology, she appreciates how AI can be a game changer for all organizations – big and small – that want to address environmental challenges at scale.

“The World Mosquito Program is a lean organization that aims to tackle a very big, global challenge. By leveraging Microsoft AI for Earth program, they are able to turn geospatial data into actionable insights, using a deep learning model they can replicate in every city where they plan to release mosquitoes. It is this combination of societal impact and scale that got us very excited and proud to support this nonprofit.”

AI for Earth is a US$50 million, five-year commitment from Microsoft to put AI to work for the future of the planet, transforming the way people and organizations monitor, model, and manage Earth’s natural systems. In 2019, the World Mosquito Program was awarded Asia Pacific’s Signature AI for Earth grant.

While our partnership with Microsoft – and in turn with Gramener – is in the early stage of development, the prospect for long-term collaboration looks promising. Which means our vision to protect 100 million people with our self-sustaining Wolbachia method is well and truly within reach.