Canada, France officially launch global initiative to advance responsible use of AI

Montreal skyline from Mount Royal

Canada, France, and 13 other countries have officially launched a new international artificial intelligence (AI) partnership to guide policy development and “responsible adoption.”

The Global Partnership on AI (GPAI) is the culmination of a 2018 pledge by Canada and France to “promote a vision of human-centric artificial intelligence.” The initiative will be supported by two research hubs, one in Montréal and one in Paris, and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by the governments of Canada and Quebec, who are investing up to $15 million over five years in the partnership.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the need for the responsible development of AI.”

“In launching GPAI, the Government of Canada recognizes the need for the responsible development of AI,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry. “This builds on our Government’s Pan-Canadian AI strategy to advance AI research and promote collaboration.”

The GPAI, previously known as the International Panel on AI, will connect and promote collaboration between industry, civil society, government, and academic experts from across the world. Other supporting members of the GPAI include Germany, the UK, the United States, and the EU.

The federal government plans to invest up to $10 million over five years to support the GPAI and the Montréal hub. This is in addition to a $5 million grant the government of Quebec awarded to Montréal International for the purpose of creating or attracting an international AI organization, bringing total government investment to $15 million over five years.

The International Centre of Expertise in Montréal for the Advancement of AI (ICEMAI) will focus on responsible AI and data governance. ICEMAI’s creation is being led by Montréal International, a public-private non-profit tasked with promoting global investment and economic development in the region. The hub will facilitate collaboration between the private sector, public sector, and scientific community, connecting the GPAI’s work to Montréal’s thriving AI industry.

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The corresponding Paris centre will focus on the future of work, and innovation and commercialization. Both hubs will work closely with the GPAI Secretariat, located at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Both will also examine the potential uses of AI in the response to, and recovery from, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our partnership with Quebec in this area will help us ensure that AI benefits Canadians in an equitable and socially responsible way,” said Bains. “By connecting the work of GPAI with the technological innovations of Montréal’s AI sector and by establishing partnerships with the provinces and territories, we will produce useful research and expertise for governments around the world.”

ICEMAI will work with Canada’s Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence, Forum IA Québec, and the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of Artificial Intelligence and Digital Technologies, in addition to experts from Quebec, Canada, and around the world, to strengthen the innovation and commercialization of AI.

“The recent signing of the memorandum of understanding between the governments of Quebec and Canada sets out Quebec’s role within the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence and demonstrates Quebec’s indisputable leadership in the responsible development of AI,” said Nadine Girault, Quebec’s international relations and Francophonie minister. “The Government of Quebec, working with the federal government and GPAI member states, will actively contribute to the advancement of AI to benefit humanity.”

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The MOU “will enable Quebec to highlight the important role of its AI ecosystem, specifically in the area of responsible development of AI, and to take its place internationally as an essential partner and subject-matter expert,” said the federal government.

The agreement will allow Quebec to participate in GPAI activities, advance its scientific perspectives, and recommend experts to GPAI working groups. Canada and Quebec also plan to involve and collaborate with other provinces and territories to draw on AI expertise from across the country.

Canadian AI pioneer and recent Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio will co-chair the GPAI’s Working Group on Responsible AI. Bengio is the founder and scientific director of Montréal-based AI research institute, Mila.

ICEMAI will host the first annual GPAI Multistakeholder Experts Group Plenary in December 2020.

Image source Matthias Mullie via Unsplash

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh is a journalist interested in telling Canadian business and tech stories. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.