A regional strategy is needed for a strong and sustainable artificial intelligence future

Across all sectors, we are seeing how digital technologies can completely reimagine the business landscape.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 10:42 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 10:42 am
Dr Kathryn Harkin, Senior Manager at Allstate Northern Ireland

With new developments and opportunities for the future constantly emerging, the scope to which technology can enhance our world appears limitless. While not always clear at first glance, the area of artificial intelligence (AI) is integral to much of this.

We see evidence of that today, where things that seemed impossible a decade ago are now taken for granted. This dynamic environment provides new challenges and risks, as well as opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship to create value and positive impact.

But, to take advantage of our new dynamic environment, we need a regional strategy that is clear and financially supported to build a strong and sustainable AI future.

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The UK has a clear and reasonable strategy which recognises the power of AI to increase resilience, productivity, growth, and innovation across the private and public sectors. This must act as a foundation for the development of a regional strategy that is responsive and reflective of AI needs in Northern Ireland.

One section of this strategy must be a commitment to skills development. As a member of the Economic Advisory Group advising on the Skills Agenda for the Northern Ireland Economy, I know the challenge in front of us.

Northern Ireland has a high proportion of people with low-level qualifications. By 2030, it is estimated we will have the fourth highest proportion of low qualified people of the sixteen Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Countries.

To grow the AI sector further, we must invest in the skills of our people to secure the next generation of talent. While our Further Education Colleges and two main Universities are the engines to which investment must be made, AI does not just rest on technical skills, but a full spectrum of skills from ethical to legal to commercial. This must be reflected in any proposed strategy.

This year’s AI Con will be the perfect opportunity to discuss, with technologists in the sector, what will be required.

Set to return on December 3 with a hybrid format at Titanic Belfast, the event will bring together world-leading technology professionals and business leaders to examine how artificial intelligence is changing our world and the opportunities and challenges it presents.

The themes for this year’s conference, which hosted 450 attendees in its first year and 800 in a virtual format last year, include Applied AI, AI Next and the Business of AI. These are designed for a general audience, tech audience and business audience respectively, and encompass everything from how AI can add value to organisations, to what start-ups in the space should focus on.

The importance of AI can no longer be disputed. AI Con will provide us with an opportunity to showcase the very best of AI. With Belfast now being a recognised tech hub, it provides the perfect opportunity to foster debate and discussion. Engagement with key business leaders and organisations is an essential part of that.

To find out more information about this year’s AI Con visit, www.aicon2021.com

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