The Government of Canada’s Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence Public Awareness Working Group, in partnership with CIFAR and Algora Lab (University of Montreal), is inviting Canadians to participate in a series of virtual workshops about AI.
The Open Dialogue on AI is scheduled to run from March 30 to April 30, 2021, in regions across the country. The workshops will include designated sessions for youth and Indigenous communities. The Canadian public is invited to register and share their experiences with AI and ask questions.
Each workshop will be approximately 2.5 hrs in length and free to attend. CIFAR says it aims to engage more than 1,000 people across Canada.
“Understanding baseline knowledge about AI, as well as Canadians’ hopes and concerns, is an important foundation for any future public engagement initiatives. The Open Dialogue serves as a pilot program that will help inform our recommendations for sustained public awareness initiatives,” said Catherine Riddell, co-chair of the Public Awareness Working Group and vice-president, strategic communications at CIFAR, in a March 9 news release.
Taking cues from the Montréal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence and the Open Dialogue on AI Ethics, the workshops will include facilitated discussions based on specific AI use case scenarios. Participants will be invited to consider and discuss the ethical dilemmas posed by particular AI applications, according to the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).
“Artificial intelligence holds tremendous promise for the future of our country. Our government is committed to making sure all people living in Canada are able to take advantage of the benefits of AI while understanding the potential risks, such as privacy and security. Gaining a greater understanding of Canadians’ feelings about and understanding of AI will be crucial to inform how we can best support AI innovation and economic growth,” said François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, in March 10 news release.
The series of workshops are funded in part by the $125 million Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, announced in Budget 2017 and led by CIFAR.
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“Canada leads the world in its deliberative approach to AI governance and digital technologies. The insights we gather from people in Canada through the Open Dialogue will help inform responsible and ethical AI development,” noted Marc-Antoine Dilhac, co-chair of the public awareness working group and Canada CIFAR AI chair.
ISED says data gathered from these workshops will be included in a final report by the Public Awareness Working Group. The report will be submitted to ISED. The report will be made public on the Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence’s website sometime this summer.
Over the past decade, artificial intelligence firms have become models of innovation in Canada. The number of active “pure-play” AI firms (firms with a flagship product or service that implements AI) in Canada has doubled in the past five years to over 660, according to a report from the University of Toronto (UofT).
The increase in the number of firms has been accompanied by increases in investment and business initiatives in the AI sector. The Global AI Index shows that Canada is now ranked fifth overall for commercial AI-focused ventures, a measure that reflects the level of startup activity, investment and business initiatives. And according to the Ontario government, the province has attracted over $1 billion in investment to its AI sector. Overall, Canada’s AI private sector has attracted $3 billion in new investment and birthed 50,000 jobs at 670 active AI-focused firms across the country since 2010, according to the UoT report.