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WAI IRELAND – A REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF TWO YEARS


 
National Flag of Ireland


"Technologist and evangelist Kirthikka Devi Venkataram in conversation with Alessandra Sala, Ambassador, WAI Ireland chapter and winner of 2021 Technovisionarie prize in AI - Industrial Research category ”




 

The Boom of AI in Ireland


"Artificial Intelligence is not the Technology of the future, it is the technology of the present"

a remarkable statement made by T.D.Robert Troy, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Ireland. The deep involvement of the Irish tech and AI ecosystem along with the key stakeholders, followed by the launch of the country's National AI Strategy for Ireland released in July 2021, drew attention to the collaboration of Women in AI Ireland chapter and its parent community #WAI for its progress and involvement.


Ireland, a land of rich cultural heritage with its magnificent presence in Halloween and Hurling, ranks second in the world in terms of the technology sector metrics based on per capita measures of the Government AI Readiness released in 2020[1].


Ireland has been determined to become an international leader in using AI to the benefit of its citizens, following a people-centered approach to AI development and trustworthy in AI adoption and use. Women in AI Ireland has been a strong voice in growing AI education programs which would encourage the participation of citizens with diverse backgrounds, gender, culture and experiences, as well as highlighting the leadership of women in AI Research and Industry.


WAI Ireland - A Strategic approach connecting National AI Strategy Ireland


It was a sheer delight to have a greet and meet chat with Alessandra Sala, Director of Data Science & Artificial Intelligence at Shutterstock and Ambassador of #WAIIreland Community also a recent recipient of the 2021 Technovisionarie award for the category of Industrial Research. Her conversation started with her experience in establishing an AI community for Ireland, especially to address the talent gap in AI increasing the representation of underprivileged, refugees’ and women community and preparing them towards global contribution.


Women in AI Ireland Community celebrated its remarkable presence completing two memorable years this September. Its success is greatly influenced by its energetic 15 core team members. Its engagement and model of operation is designed to include collaboration with the latest University researches, initiatives with government funded projects, fostering events Ireland corporate sectors and enterprise partnership programs.


BUILDING BLOCKS OF ai literacy and its accomplishment


WAI Ireland’s goal is to identify and provide opportunities to upskill talented women through a two-pronged program called #WaiLEARN, #WaiPRACTICE being a subset of #WaiLEARN


The program starts with #WaiPRACTICE that runs for 2 months where the participants are organized in groups of three or four members with an assigned mentor providing guidance throughout the program on an AI project. The idea is to solve a real AI problem guided with tools and techniques providing hands-on approach and giving a platform to showcase their project results through #WaiPRACTICE Showcase series as a proof of their competence and a testimonial of course completion.


In publication to a special report to The Irish Times promoting the program[3], Alessandra Sala says:


“Growing female and minority participation in AI cannot start at recruitment when candidate pipelines lack diversity. We have to change the current approach and focus on growing the next talent pool of candidates by starting with education programs, accessible to everyone and which attract candidates from diverse backgrounds”


The second activity within the #WaiLEARN program is the #WaiCERT, a regular 12 weeks focused program targeting individuals looking for a career change into AI. Being a pioneer and visionary do-tank, the WAI Ireland community partnered with ICT Skillnet, Krisolis[2] and TU Dublin to design a new education program encouraging the Irish citizens to be future ready by its “CPD Certificate in Foundations of Artificial Intelligence”. The program on successful completion provide participants to earn a 10 ECTS CPD Award at NFQ Level 8.


Ireland’s WiSTEM Society UCC and #WAIIreland talked this October 11, 2021 about the importance of achieving inclusivity and diversity to University College Cork students. In this event, different paths that the students could take to work in the field of AI and eventually become outstanding leaders were identified. Numerous other Scholarship Program in partnership with Ireland’s top colleges and universities, awarding scholarship opportunities to professional women across business, STEM, healthcare and public policy are also considered.


In June 2021, WAI Ireland was thus delighted to receive the Fellowship of the The Analytics Institute of Ireland for its outstanding contribution to the sector, dedicating the award to the outstanding voluntary work of the education team for both the #WaiCERT and #WaiPRACTICE.


BUILDING THE PUBLIC TRUST


#WaiTALK organized in November 2020 a "Path to Entrepreneurship" by Women in AI Ireland in collaboration with IBM, specifically to address the entrepreneurial gap in AI and Technology. AI has the potential to disrupt different industries, however the most promising is in the medical space. The community organized #WaiTALK addressing the future of healthcare and mental well being with a special focus in three key areas where AI can bring immense value by providing a Chat-bots for mental health, allow Patient flow optimization before and after COVID-19 and Privacy implications in the pandemic.


Women in AI Ireland in April 2021 partnered with Formula Trinity - a student led initiative representing Trinity College Dublin students at various self-driving car technology competitions. As a result of this engagement, an event "Women in AI Ireland meets Formula Trinity" was organized. The panel discussion covered growth opportunities for women in the AI in Automotive industry.


Women in AI Ireland was featured in "AI Summit 2021" this April 2021 for "Artificial Intelligence For Gender Equality" and engaged in the panel discussion: "Rethinking Talent To Thrive In An Agile AI World"!


Women in AI Ireland also sponsored The Open Data Hackathon in April 2021 highlighting the benefits of applying data analytics and Artificial Intelligence techniques to data sourced from the National Open Data Portal (data.gov.ie)


Embracing the women participation in the International Women’s Day 8 March 2021, Women In AI Ireland in association with Microsoft Ireland DreamSpace and the Confirm SFI Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing presented live virtual #WaiTALK titled “Choose to challenge: The Future of AI and You” designed for non-experts from secondary school students all the way to professionals, to familiarize them with the basics of AI.



[Click on the image to know more of the WAI Ireland community's social media presence and engagement]


OPPORTUNITY AND ADVANTAGE


As a Research Scientist starting in the US and originally from Italy, Alessandra Sala, Director of AI and Data Science at Shutterstock, Chair of Governance Committee at ML-Labs, Technology Advisor and a former Head of Analytics Research at Nokia Bell Labs, acknowledges Ireland as a place of career opportunities and fortunate to grow as a technical leader. She has been leading research teams in several locations, developing a successful strategy for Data Analytics division while driving changes across different activities like her contributions to the Nokia AI Ethics Advisory Board.


The industry sector composition of Ireland is varied with IT Technology, Telecom, Pharma, FinTech and recently into green energy initiatives in advancing Agriculture using technology and AI.


WAI Ireland under the lead of its passionate Ambassador has organized numerous events and their collection is a great resource for creating a pathway in AI and addressing the talent gap while showcasing how emerging technologies bring new opportunities for economic and social justice. Let's celebrate the success of the WAI Ireland chapter and wish them to grow radically achieving significant contributions in AI.



About the Author:

Kirthikka is a Technologist and Generalist with wide knowledge in varying Technology and Management with a rich decade of experience. WAI blog is her Techno craving hobby enabling to gain insights on current trends in AI.


Join her twitter community @roshini_diya to hear more on the industry news and updates.


References:

[1] https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/National-AI-Strategy.pdf


[2]https://krisolis.ie/foundations-certificate-in-artificial-intelligence/


[3]https://www.irishtimes.com/special-reports/ai-focus/moving-the-ai-diversity-dial-course-aims-to-boost-womens-participation-1.4621531


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