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Recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence offer enormous benefits for mission-driven organizations and could eventually revolutionize how they work.

By Gideon Rosenblatt Abhishek Gupta Jun. 11, 2018

W ith suicide prevention, every minute of response time matters. That’s why the technology team at the well-known nonprofit Crisis Text Line in New York City analyzed some 65 million text messages to determine what words were most statistically associated with a high risk of suicide. This scale of analysis would clearly be infeasible without some form of automated analysis, and its results surprised the team. Use of the term “EMS” in a text, for example, is five times more predictive of a high risk of suicide than the actual word “suicide.” By using this analysis, the team can now better prioritize incoming messages, much like the triage system in a hospital emergency department. As a result, the organization is now able to respond to 94 percent of high-risk texters in fewer than five minutes.

This is just one example of “mission-driven artificial intelligence”—the responsible application of artificial intelligence (AI) to solve societal and ecological challenges. Sometimes dubbed “AI for good,” mission-driven AI is the use of machine-learning techniques to streamline operations and enhance programs at nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and social enterprises.

To be clear, AI is a broad term that captures the constantly evolving advances in machines’ capabilities to perform tasks that would ordinarily require human intelligence. Machine learning is a specific approach to AI that applies statistical techniques to data in order to train computers to perform tasks without explicit human programming of rules. “Deep learning” is, in turn, a type of machine learning that relieson techniques that learn multiple layers of representations, in a way that mimics how the brain processes data. In this article, we refer to AI to intentionally focus on the broader picture. Machine learning does account for the vast majority of AI research and development today, however, and we use this term when referring to specific projects that make use of this technique.

Using AI in a mission-driven context could supercharge the capacities of the social change sector. Specifically, it has the potential to lower costs, improve quality, and broaden the impact of social change organizations. Think of it as transforming these organizations from a VW Beetle into the USS Enterprise.

The first step

We are now witnessing a Cambrian Explosion in machine learning, as algorithms GELFlux 5 Mens Running Shoes outlet with paypal Manchester for sale discount big discount sale lowest price XzHRYOxb
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via smartphone cameras, and streamline business processes that are already highly optimized—like reducing Google’s data center cooling bill by 40 percent .

Microsoft: Google Microsoft

I decide to contact them…but Apple says it will take up to a few days for them to respond.

At this point, I’m thinking of abandoning the whole idea.

While waiting for DB support to get back to me, I decide to go to the DB site, verify my identity, and update my company information which, I assume, they had taken from government registration records.

Did I mention how sucky this is? I just want to list my existing web app in the store. Plz help.

I go to DB to update my business profile. Surprise! They have a JavaScript bug in their validation logic that prevents me from updating my profile.

Thankfully, I’m a proficient developer. I click put a breakpoint in their JavaScript, click submit, change the isValid flag to true, and voila! I’ve updated my DB profile.

Back to Apple Dev –> let’s try this again. Register my company…

“Error: The information you entered did not match your DB profile.”


Talk to Apple again. “Oh, it may take 24–48 hours for the updated DB information to get into our system.”

You know, because digital information can take 2 days to travel from server A to server B. Sigh.

Two days later, I try to register…finally it works! Now I’m in the Apple Developer program and can submit apps for review.

Winner : Google and Microsoft; both took all of 5 minutes to register.

Loser : The Apple Developer registration was slow and painful. It took about a week to actually get registered with their developer program. It required me contacting support from 2 different freaking companies. And it required me to just so that I can get past their buggy client-side validation, so that my info will flow to Apple, so that I can submit my app to the store. Wow, just…wow.

If there is any saving grace here for Apple, it’s that they have a 501c3 non-profit program, where non-profits can have their $99 annual fee waived. I took advantage of that. And perhaps this extra step complicated matters.

App Packaging, Building, Submitting

Once you have a web app, you have to run some magic on it to turn it into something you can submit for App Store review.

The good news is, there’s a free tool to do the magic of turning your web app into app packages . That awesome free tool is called Men Casual Trend for Fashion Warm Leather Winter Shoes Black 43 sale deals shopping online free shipping JDfmKdc
. It analyzes a URL, tells you what you need to do (e.g. maybe add some home screen icons to your PWA web manifest). And in a 3 step wizard, it lets you download packages that contain all the magic:

Once again, Apple was the most painful of all of these. I don’t have a Mac. But you cannot build the XCode project for your PWA without a Mac.

I don’t want to pay several thousand dollars to publish my free app in Apple’s app store. I don’t want to pay for the privilege of enriching Apple’s iOS platform.

Thankfully, MacInCloud costs about $25/month, and they give you a Mac machine with XCode already installed. You can remote into it using Windows Remote Desktop, or even via a web interface.

It wasn’t enough to just build the XCode project and submit. I had to generate a security certificate on the Apple Developer site, then create a new app profile in a separate site, iTunes Connect, where you actually submit the package.

And that wasn’t all: since Apple is hostile to web apps, I had to install some special frameworks and add Cordova plugins that allow my app to do things like to play audio in the background, add the current song to the lock screen, control the song volume and play status from the lock screen, and more.

This took at least a week of finagling to get my app into a working state before I could submit it to the app store.

Winner : Microsoft. Imagine this: you can go to a website that generates an app package for your web app. And if that’s not your thing, you can download command line tools that will do the job. GUI person? The free Visual Studio will work.

Runner-up : Google. Requires Android Studio, but it’s free, runs everyone, and was simple enough.

Loser : Apple. I shouldn’t have to buy a proprietary computer — a several thousand dollar Mac — in order to build my app. The Apple Dev Center –> iTunes Connect tangling seems like an out-of-touch manager’s attempt to push iTunes onto developers. It should simply be part of Apple Developer Center site.

App Testing

Once you finally did all the magic incantations to turn your existing web app into a mobile app package, you probably want to send it out to testers before releasing your app on the unwashed masses.

Winner : Toss up. Apple’s Test Flight app is simple and streamlined. You can control alpha/beta expiration simply on the admin side. Google wasn’t far behind; it was quite painless, not even requiring a separate app.

App Review

Once your app is ready for prime time, you submit your app for review. The review is done using both a programmatic checklist (e.g. do you have a launch icon?) and by real people (“your app is a clone of X, we reject it”)

Winner : Apple.

Sure, as a developer, I like the fact that my app was instantly in the Google Play store. But that’s only because, I suspect, it wasn’t actually reviewed by a human.

Apple had the quickest turnaround time for actual human review. Updates also passed review within 24 hours.

Microsoft was hit or miss here. The initial review took 3 or 4 days. An later update took 24 hours. Then another update, where I added XBox platform, took another 3–4 days.


It’s painful, and costs money, to take an existing PWA and get them functional on mobile platforms and listed in the App Store.

Winner : Google. They made it the easiest to get into the app store. The made it the easiest to integrate into the native platform, by attempting to standardize web APIs that OS platforms can pick up on (hello, lovely navigator.mediaSession)

Runner-up : Microsoft. They made it the easiest to sprinkle your web app with magic, turning it into a package that can be submitted to their store. (Can be done for free using the PWABuilder site!) Integrating with their platform means using the auto-injected window.Windows.* JavaScript namespace. Not bad.

Loser : Apple. Don’t require me to buy a Mac to build an iOS app. Don’t force me to use native wrappers to integrate with your platform. Don’t require me to screw around with security certificates; let your build tools make them for me, and store them automatically in my Dev Center account. Don’t make me use 2 different sites: Apple Dev Center and iTunes Connect.

Final thoughts: The web always wins. It defeated Flash. It killed Silverlight. It destroyed native apps on desktop. The browser is the rich client platform. The OS is merely a browser-launcher and hardware-communicator.

The web will win, too, on mobile. Developers don’t want to build 3 separate apps for the major platforms. Companies don’t want to pay for development of 3 apps.

The answer to all this is the web. We can build rich web apps — Progressive Web Apps — and package them for all the app stores.

Apple in particular has a perverse incentive to stop the progress of the web. It’s the same incentive that Microsoft had in the late ’90s and early 2000s: it wants to be platform for good apps. PWAs undermine that; they run everywhere.

My software wisdom is this: PWAs will eventually win and overtake native mobile apps. In 5–10 years, native iOS apps will be as common as Win32 C apps. Apple will go kicking and screaming, keeping iOS Safari behind the curve, blocking PWA progress where they can. (Even their recent “support” for PWAs in iOS Safari 11.1 actually cripple PWAs .)

My suggestion to mobile app platforms is embrace the inevitable and either automatically add quality PWAs to your app store, or allow developers to easily (e.g. free, and with 3 clicks or less) submit a PWA to your store.

Readers, I hope this has been helpful glance at PWAs in App Stores in 2018.

Have you submitted a PWA to an app store? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments section. And you can read more of my blog posts on my blog .

Like what you read? Give JudahGabriel Himango a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.

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Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

Prejudice is often coded into software, including tools used by the government.

By Ethan Chiel

The difficulty with talking about the technology industry is that it’s increasingly hard to define. A tech company can be a giant data-mining operation turned advertising platform, like Facebook or Google. But it can also be a design-heavy producer of phones, computers and software. Or perhaps it’s a transportation company pretending it’s just a marketplace, nothing to see here. Maybe it’s Auupgo Mens AUTEX Waterproof MultiFunctional Hiking Shoes Outdoor Trekking Shoe Army Green reliable cheap price buy cheap new styles new arrival online recommend online quality free shipping for sale 1TYkC

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What binds all these companies, plenty of other large companies, and a host of startups is murky. Perhaps it’s the fact that they offer services via their websites and that they create software, but the software is rarely the actual product they are selling. These businesses tends to have a headquarters, or at least an outpost, within the Bay Area. Very often, they make sweeping claims to be the capital F Future. Think Facebook’s attempt to “make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world,” by walling users into products of its choosing , or communities touting Amazon fulfillment centers as integral to their futures. Yet as David Yanofsky has pointed out, Groupon, Skype, Facebook, and Amazon.comall compete in different markets. This has led him, and several other writers, to declare over the past several years that there’s clearance new Nike Mens ACG Air Max Goadome Leather Boots Black clearance lowest price best sale online shipping discount authentic EZ26dBslRj
or the tech industry .

This slipperiness is particularly frustrating because there’s a value to holding tech companies to account as a group. For all their differences, the companies mentioned about have each encountered serious problems with inequality and discrimination both within their organizations and among their users. Sexual harassment and racism have persistently troubled companies from Google to Uber, while Twitter has struggled to deal with intimidating and often hateful speech on its platform. A pair of recent books survey these issues, as they play out on social networks and in the wider world, in systems many Americans are not even aware of.

The first of these, Sara Wachter-Boetcher’s Technically Wrong is exactly what its subtitle, “Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech,” might lead you to expect: a primer on several years worth of disastrous failures of design and cultural problems at various stripes tech companies large and small. She focuses heavily, though not entirely, on consumer-facing companies: Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and the like. In a brisk couple of hundred pages she discusses the failure of Silicon Valley’s giants to diversify their workforces, which remain overwhelmingly white and male, and how this creates products whose full range of users aren’t accounted for. In phototagging for instance, failure to train an algorithm with a broad data meant Google Photos ASICS Mens GEL190 TR Training Shoe Black/Black/Silver cheap clearance store pre order cheap online lKdgN8Ir2
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The second challenge, the complexity of developing machine learning systems, may be well on the way to solving itself. Just a few years ago, these technologies required many years of experience. New software development platforms from Google , Amazon , discount visa payment Womens Grasshoppers Skylar Espadrille discount great deals low shipping cheap online buy cheap manchester great sale free shipping new styles 1BMT5oHW9Z
, and others help automate the process of building machine learning systems, which lowers barriers and greatly expands the number of software developers capable of wielding these tools on the behalf of mission-driven organizations. With simpler tools and an ample supply of developers, costs should decline.

The third obstacle relates to the need for large-scale, high-quality, structured datasets, which are necessary to build machine learning systems. Companies like Salesforce and Intuit (the developer of QuickBooks) are able to draw upon the data of many customers, which solves this challenge for many capacity-building applications. When it comes to specific program-related applications, however, very few mission-driven organizations have enough data to train machine learning systems. Even those that do collect it often don’t have it in the structured formats necessary for machine learning applications.

One solution might be found in larger, better-curated government and third-party datasets. For example, the forest monitoring project adidas outdoor Terrex AX2R Hiking Shoe Womens MGH Solid Grey/Black/Granite 70 deals for sale pre order cheap online buy cheap finishline cheap new styles buy cheap nicekicks qI9N1ZlDg
and the technology nonprofit Rainforest Connection use machine learning to identify factors that contribute to forest losses in the Congo and the Amazon. And the sustainable fisheries initiative, Global Fishing Watch , analyzed some 22 billion messages from fishing boats to uncover illegal industrial fishing vessels. To tap into external data sources, organizations can also use data analytics solutions such as Tableau and buy cheap outlet locations Call It Spring Call It Spring Crissa Cognac sale high quality fashionable cheap price free shipping order b9903vOg
, which both have programs to help mission-driven organizations use their platforms.

Machine learning and spatial modeling identify the main drivers of forest loss and predict its likely future locations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Image courtesy of Global Forest Watch.)

Another option is for mission-driven organizations to share data. Trendy Flock and Bowknot Design Wedge Shoes For Women Purple 38 buy cheap best free shipping clearance discount authentic discount 100% guaranteed outlet store online urjD17Fx
, a tech-savvy college mentoring program, is training Salesforce’s machine-learning capabilities to automatically predict which students are most likely to drop out of school. The organization has licensed its technology to 40 other similar college success programs across the United States, impacting some 300,000 students. CEO Austin Buchin notes that the organization’s plan is to eventually help these partner programs pool their data with data-sharing agreements, and when they do, “the quality of the predictions is going to skyrocket.”

Machine learning algorithms help identify factors of success for college-bound students at nonprofit, College Forward. (Photograph courtesy of College Forward)

The last obstacle is affordable, accessible computing infrastructure. The complex computational models and massive datasets that fuel machine learning place a tremendous burden on computing infrastructure. Luckily, Amazon , amazing price cheap online 2014 newest sale online Bata Bata Ladies Block Heel Sandals Pewter for cheap price footlocker online mBqGwR
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all host cloud computing services optimized for machine learning. All four companies have programs for nonprofits, and we expect all will soon extend their machine learning offerings to these programs.