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Cloudera Foundation merger to bring AI and data to nonprofits

The merger creates a program within the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation that will provide artificial intelligence technology and expertise to nonprofit organizations.

The Cloudera Foundation, the philanthropic arm of big data vendor Cloudera, agreed to merge with the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation to bring AI and data-driven technologies and expertise to nonprofit organizations.

Per the agreement, signed March 30, the Cloudera Foundation will merge its staff, $9 million endowment and $3 million of existing grants with the PJMF, based in Boston.

Created in 2014 after the death of businessman and entrepreneur Patrick J. McGovern, the foundation is a global $1.5 billion charitable organization that invests programs, and organizations that use AI for good. That includes groups that advocate for ethical technology, support greater diversity in the tech industry and tackle global problems using data-driven technology.

Typically, nonprofits are at a technical disadvantage, often running dated and cheap or free systems, said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder and principal analyst at Deep Analysis.

"As [machine learning and AI] take hold over the coming years, that gap will grow further," he said. "So, there is no doubt that there is a need to help them to bridge that gap. The merger in that regard makes a great deal of sense."

Still, Pelz-Sharpe noted, machine learning and AI are increasingly bundled with and embedded in standard business applications; Google and Microsoft, for example, build the technologies into their office suites.

Nonprofits see the benefits of AI and machine learning there, and plenty of open source and low-cost cloud options also are available, he continued.

The merger with the Cloudera Foundation accelerates the creation of a Data and Society program in the foundation, an initiative that aims to bring advanced data science and AI technologies and expertise to nonprofit and social impact organizations.

"If the Data and Society program focuses on bridging the skills gap by helping nontechnical staff to make use of these tools, then that would be a good thing, but it's not clear exactly how they would do so," Pelz-Sharpe said. "All in all, this looks like a good move, but it's too early to tell if it will truly have much impact over time."

Claudia Juech, the founding CEO of the Cloudera Foundation, will lead the new program.

I would expect this merger to help accelerate and support AI for social good initiatives.
Ritu JyotiProgram vice president of AI research, IDC

"I would expect this merger to help accelerate and support AI for social good initiatives," said Ritu Jyoti, program vice president of AI research at IDC.

"Examples could range from automated monitoring of viral diseases to predicting poverty, and from climate informatics to helping train human moderators with identifying and quantifying online abuses on social media," she said.

(Patrick McGovern founded IDC in 1964.)

Software vendor Cloudera, based in Palo Alto, Calif., created the Cloudera Foundation in 2017 to work with nonprofits worldwide to help tackle global issues.

The foundation relies on technology and expertise from Cloudera and its own staff of data technologists to carry out its work.

According to the foundation, the Data and Society program pairs selected nonprofits with the foundation's data engineers and technologists to help the nonprofits curate and use data to solve business problems.

Over the years, selected nonprofits will receive customized support with access to technology and technical assistance, according to PJMF.

The new program will also strive to promote awareness among civic organizations about the business potential of AI and data.

The merger is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2021, pending regulatory approval.

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