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The democratization of artificial intelligence (AI)
The democratization of artificial intelligence (AI)
Blog

The democratization

of artificial intelligence (AI)

Takeaways

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools should be made accessible to as large a portion of the population as possible, especially given the COVID-19 crisis.
  • To do this, it’s important to have “intermediaries” who can act as a bridge between those who are working with the newest AI tools and those who could benefit from them.
  • Currently, Mitacs is involved in multiple AI-related collaborations taking place across Canada, and we need to continue to create partnerships between top research talent and experts proficient in AI technology.

These days, AI is an integral part of conversations at every level of society. While these tools have become “basic” commodities for companies in highly competitive tech sectors, it’s important they benefit as large a proportion of our society as possible, so we need mechanisms to ensure extensive accessibility. This not only provides an equal opportunity for as wide a swath of our economy as possible but acts as a safety net for all the communities who will be able to access it. This reality has been building over the past decade but never has it been more obvious than with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

Making AI accessible

AI is past its infancy stage as it transitions from primarily the academic sphere into the rest of society. During this transition, it is imperative that these new tools be offered not only to large tech companies — generally found in urban centers — but also to our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Many of these smaller companies are based outside of major cities and don’t normally have access to, nor could they afford, this kind of expertise in-house.

Young researchers and students who specialize in foundational AI fields (computer sciences, software engineering, applied mathematics, etc.) can act as a bridge between these disruptive tools and their potential applications. To do this, we need intermediaries, people who can match a researcher solution provider with a need within our communities, then carve out mutually beneficial partnerships between the two. Such connections make these new AI tools accessible across sectors and across the country.

Canada has long been a pioneer in AI — several of the world’s premier AI institutes are here: Mila in Montréal, IID in Québec City, Vector Institute in Toronto, and Amii in Edmonton — and we need well-thought-out strategies to ensure cross-pollination between those who are working with the newest tools and those who could benefit from them. The case for a well-distributed capacity in manipulating AI solutions has only been strengthened by the onset of COVID-19.

One such example is being led by iMD Research in collaboration with University of Alberta and McGill University researchers. The goal is to develop a system that remotely monitors the vital signs of COVID-positive patients who have self-isolated.

There are many similar projects under way. In Montréal, Mila has a number of different ones. In Ontario, Cyclica in partnership with the Vector Institute, is using its proprietary technology for AI-enabled drug repurposing for COVID-19. Hygienic Echo is developing an AI-powered platform to assess hygiene risks in hospitals. Vancouver-based 1Qbit and the Saskatchewan Health Authority are working on a chest radiography AI tool that improves the accuracy and timeliness of diagnosing lung abnormalities.

In all these examples, applied research student interns are at the interface between the companies and state of the art. Building up that capability and capacity provides tangible channels for AI technology to have as wide a reach as possible.

AI solutions for businesses of every size

 In order to achieve this goal, it’s important that we find ways to:

  • Bring together students equipped with core AI disciplines with MNEs and SMEs across Canada — including in rural communities — and across different sectors, so they can benefit from these leading-edge tools
  • Attract the best talent from around the world to strengthen the depth and breadth of expertise and to ensure that we maintain a leadership position in these technologies
  • Strengthen existing teams who specialize in finding needs within companies and other organizations, then create partnerships between them and experts proficient in the tools of AI, to work on mutually agreed-upon goals.

 

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Jesse Vincent-Herscovici

Mitacs Business Development

Jesse Vincent-Herscovici has been a member of the Mitacs Business Development team since 2009. As Vice-President, he is responsible for strategy and leads a large national business development team. Working under a mandate to help foster Canadian innovation, he works with the world’s most innovative companies, helping to structure and support their R&D strategy with universities across the globe.

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