Microsoft announced it selected Fortude as the first Sri Lankan grant recipient of its AI for Accessibility program, which funds organizations that use artificial intelligence to empower people with disabilities. The grant — which includes access to Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service and provides training and resources to organizations looking to tackle problems relating to work, life, and human connections — will enable Fortude to develop and launch their Dysphagia identification app.
Last year, Microsoft brought together its business partners in Sri Lanka to develop AI prototypes for people with disabilities at the AI for Accessibility Hackathon. The event was held in partnership with the MJF Charitable Foundation and was part of the AI for Accessibility program, which has pledged $25 million over the five years for people developing AI tools that serve those with disabilities. Fortude was recognized at the event for its Dysphagia identification app which identifies swallowing difficulties in infants and children.
“At Microsoft, we believe technology is an enabler for everyone and no one should be left behind,” said Hasitha Abeywardena, Country Manager, Microsoft Sri Lanka & Maldives. “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. That is why we are investing in people that use technology to empower those with disabilities.”
Selected AI for Accessibility applicants receive compute credits for Microsoft’s Azure AI platform depending on their project’s scope and needs, and additional funds to cover costs related to collecting or labeling data, refining models, or other engineering-related work.
“What stands out the most about Fortude is how they are taking standard AI capabilities and truly revolutionizing the value of technology. The work they have done is an important step in scaling accessible technology and building on our recent advancements in Microsoft Cognitive Services and Machine Learning to develop accessible and intelligent AI solutions for all,” added Hasitha.
“We are honored to be Sri Lanka’s first recipient of Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility grant,” said Gaurika Wijeratne, Associate Vice President – Business Intelligence, Fortude. “It is amazing when a corporation such as Microsoft focuses on scaling the reach of new technologies, like Cognitive Services and Machine Learning, to empower people with disabilities. Microsoft’s investment in projects that are uniquely solving complex issues like Dysphagia identification in youth and children is essential to creating accessible technology for all.”
Proposals are accepted on a rolling basis and are evaluated “on their scientific merit,” in addition to their innovativeness and scalability.