Monash University Using AI For Good

28th July 2020


    Monash University is becoming a global leaders in AI for social good.
    The new Monash Data Futures Insitute are already overseeing more than 200 IT for social good projects.

ACS Victoria Professional Partner, Monash University is fast becoming a world leader in AI for social good with their revolutionary projects and the new Monash Data Futures Institute.

With the increased concern about ethics in AI, particularly around data privacy, Monash University believed that the new institute would help to oversee the development of AI and data science technology. The institute is assembled with academics from 10 different faculties, who are already overseeing more than 200 IT for social good projects.

Professor Wray Buntine from the Department of Data Science and AI is currently leading several AI projects under the scope of the institute, and recently gave ACS an insight into what some of these projects involve. Professor Buntine believes “social good introduces some pretty challenging technology and because you're usually not dealing with proprietary systems or data, your partners are more enthusiastic about sharing technology with you”.

Two key projects being led by Wray include AI helping to reduce hospital admissions, and a national suicide monitoring system. Talking on how one of the projects might help people once completed, Professor Buntine explained that “early hospital readmissions are costly for the patients and for the hospital.  Moreover, risk stratification is the basis for an important new health initiative across Australia sometimes called the virtual hospital.  If they can get adequate medical support, then they are much better off in the comfort of their home.  The crunch though is adequate medical support”. Professor Buntine added that “we have to assess their risks, whether they are ready for homecare, and what sort of medical monitoring and aftercare is best for them. Only a medical expert can do this, but our system could provide advice and make the whole process more rigorous”.

As the projects are still on-going, the team have a good idea of how they will help but they need to keep in mind that things may change, and the project may help in ways they did not think of in the beginning.

Outgoing Dean of Monash’s Faculty of Information Technology, Professor Jon Whittle, felt that investing in using AI for social good was a good expression of the values of the faculty. “Monash is taking a leading role in developing ethical and regulatory guidelines,” Professor Whittle said. “It’s a new thing for Monash, and also internationally,” he said.

In closing off a great interview with Professor Wray Buntine, he added that “AI for social good helps society.  We’re seeing that many of the really hard but interesting problems for AI, involve a close collaboration with humans, so called "human in the loop" systems, and with social sciences.  Here, you need to move the once computer-centric AI boffin out of their isolated laboratory and get them working with people and interfaces. This makes AI much more interesting for some scientists and broadens the kinds of people who can contribute to the research."

To view the other projects Monash are working on, please click here. Or find out more about the Monash Data Futures Institute here.