Encouraging diversity in AI: Why Borealis AI and RBC are supporting the AI4Good Lab
Enhancing diversity, developing talent and encouraging social good are key to creating a just and sustainable society. They are objectives we strive for every day at Borealis AI and at RBC. And they are what make initiatives like the AI4Good Lab particularly important in today’s AI ecosystem.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning hold massive potential for people and businesses across the country and around the world. But it must also be reflective of the society we live in today and the society we hope to create in the future,” noted Dr. Kathryn Hume, Interim Head of Borealis AI. “Programs like the AI4Good Lab are instrumental in helping encourage diversity in the field, developing young talent and uncovering new ideas for applying AI to social good.”
The AI4Good Lab is a AI training initiative for women-identified STEM students that is unique in its focus on not only developing AI skills, but also on tackling diversity and inclusion in AI and inspiring the next generation of AI leaders to develop AI as a force for social good. The AI4Good Lab is partnered with Canadian non-profit research institute, CIFAR, and Montreal-based start-up foundation, OSMO.
“Demand for this type of initiative has been amazing. Women are deeply interested in exploring careers in AI. Companies are just as interested in diversifying their AI workforce. And society is keen to ensure AI is being used to benefit everyone,” noted Dr. Doina Precup, co-founder of AI4Good Lab and a researcher at Mila (McGill University) and Deepmind. “In fact, demand is so high that we have brought together a second cohort in Edmonton in order to help more women access the skills and capabilities of the AI4Good Lab.”
Borealis AI is pleased to be expanding its participation in the AI4Good Lab program. Building on a strong foundation of collaboration throughout last year’s program, Borealis AI will be providing valuable mentorship, advice and skills transfer to participants, as well as operational, strategic and marketing support to program organizers. The Early Talent Team from RBC Technology and Operations will be providing financial support.
“We're excited to be part of a leading-edge program that helps young women develop and grow their knowledge and skills in Machine Learning and AI," added Bruce Ross, Group Head, Technology & Operations, RBC. "These capabilities hold massive potential for every industry but we need diverse talent in order to unlock their full possibilities. Supporting and mentoring women technologists through the AI4Good Lab is one way we're doing that.”
The AI4Good Lab program consists of two parts. In the first, participants attend virtual workshops and lectures focused on providing intensive machine learning training. In the second, participants use their new skills to prototype AI products to tackle a social good problem of their choosing. Last year’s projects included prototypes for applications focused on helping victims of domestic abuse, identifying bias in literature, mental health tools, a cervical cancer risk predictor, and a waste sorting app.
“Our support for this important program is not just about skills transfer. We want participants to be able to interact with female researchers who can serve as role models and mentors, providing advice on career opportunities and development in the field,” noted Dr. Eirene Seiradaki, Director of Research Partnerships at Borealis AI. “We also want to encourage and cultivate the development of the valuable ideas and applications that these women are creating through the program. Our goal is to help create the next generation of female AI developers and their ideas.”
It is exactly these types of partnerships with industry and National Research Institutes that help enrich and diversify the AI ecosystem across Canada. Indeed, besides Borealis AI, RBC, CIFAR and OSMO, the program also enjoys collaboration from AMII, Vector Institute, DeepMind, IBM and others.
"It has been encouraging to see many of Canada’s leading national and regional AI businesses embrace the program by providing not just financial support, but also mentorship and career opportunities,” added Maya Marcus-Sells, Executive Director at the AI4Good Lab. “It takes an ecosystem approach to achieve the objectives we have set. And, with leaders such as Borealis AI and RBC, Canada’s AI ecosystem is clearly stepping up to the challenge.”
Borealis AI and RBC are proud to support this year’s AI4Good Lab expanded program. Initiatives like these form an important part of the life-long learning and development we encourage in our people and our communities. To continue helping the participants of the program upgrade their skills after they graduate from the Lab, Borealis AI and RBC are excited to welcome applications from the AI4Good lab’s present and past students to the Borealis AI internships and the RBC Amplify programs for opportunities to access subject-matter experts, while working on meaningful problems and building their future careers.
“The partnership between Borealis AI, RBC and the AI4Good Lab is a win-win for us, for the AI ecosystem and for society,” added Dr. Eirene Seiradaki. “We are delighted to be playing an important role in supporting women in AI through this program and throughout their careers. We look forward to working with the great participants in this year’s cohorts, exploring the next big ideas in social good, and growing the AI4Good Lab’s alumni network.”