Pranav Khaitan

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AI-based tool to assess disaster damage

Mihir Ray and Hrusikesh Mohanty, October 20, 2020: The Times of India

Odisha techie’s AI tool helps Nobel winner WFP

The Nobel peace prize awarded to United Nations’ World Food Programme has a strong Odisha connect through a 32-yearold Google employee from Rourkela. Pranav Khaitan, an alumnus of NIT Rourkela, played a prominent role in the tie-up between Google and the WFP to develop an artificial intelligence tool to alleviate hunger, report Mihir Ray and Hrusikesh Mohanty.

Along with a 10-member team, Khaitan developed an AI-based tool that could assess disaster damage within 24 to 72 hours.

Our tech being used in five countries: Khaitan

When the partnership between Google and WFP was forged in 2018, Californiabased Pranav Khaitan, a senior engineering lead at Google Research, was faced with one question — how to use AI to reduce global hunger.

Along with a 10-member team, Khaitan developed an AI-based tool that could assess disaster damage within 24 to 72 hours and ensure timely delivery of aid to affected people. “I feel fortunate to have contributed to the mission of eradicating global hunger,” Khaitan told TOI over phone from California. “The technology we developed has been in use in at least five countries, including Mexico and Indonesia, over the past two years. It has been used to deliver assistance at the time of natural disasters like earthquakes and cyclones. In India, it is yet to be used,” he explained.

Khaitan, who has led R&D in AI, graduated from NIT in 2009. He then pursued an MS degree at Stanford University. After interning with Facebook, he joined Google and has been working there since as one the research heads for AI.

After the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize 2020, WFP thanked Khaitan. “This is a chance to be proud of what we have been able to accomplish together. Pranav/ Google Research has pioneered some of the earliest explorations to revolutionise humanitarian operations using AI,” the email said.

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