Justin Trudeau explains why Canada really ‘gets’ AI and smart cities​

Justin Trudeau explains why Canada really ‘gets’ AI and smart cities

At Google’s Go North event today in Toronto, which features a slate of speakers focused primarily on artificial intelligence, Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (and actually asked him some tough questions on NAFTA negotiations and his feelings about Trump, surprisingly). Trudeau talked a lot about the Canadian perspective on innovation, and about why Canada is doing so well with regards to acting as a hub for research and development around artificial intelligence in general. “I just think Canadians realize better than most that there is an opportunity here,” Trudeau began, also nothing that this extends not only to the innovation side, but also to the “consequences of AI, the consequences of automation,” and the “economic imbalance of those who own the robots and those who are displaced by them.”

Trudeau explained that while he has no specific foresight in terms of where technological progress with artificial intelligence is taking us, he believes it’s not up to the Canadian government to “pick winners,” but that instead that it is their role to say that they’re going to “invest in quantum, we’re gonna invest in AI, we’re going to invest in robotics, we’re going to invest in high-value, innovative, creative, groundbreaking areas” that match the Canadian education system and the country’s entrepreneurial values.

He added that Canada has a drive to search for a way to “be relevant in a positive way on the world stage,” and that AI fits with that goal, as does investment in other high-tech areas.

Schmidt pointed out that Canada also has notably different strategies when it comes to encouraging an atmosphere of innovation, and that includes specific policies around immigration. Trudeau took the opportunity to talk about the similarities between the American and Canadian perspective on immigration, and then about where those perspectives diverge.

The Prime Minister noted that immigrants have been important to both countries, but that Canada realizes it continues to be important, and is in fact of growing importance in an increasingly global economy. He also explained that immigrants tend to be particularly well-suited to contributing to the growth of the economy specifically in the area of innovation.

“People choosing to move to a new place are self-selected to be ambitious, forward-thinking, brave, and builders of a better future,” he said. “For someone to choose to do this to ensure their kids have a good life is a big step.”

Trudeau said that Canada realized the need to attract world-class talent to the country hasn’t changed

Trudeau said that Canada realized the need to attract world-class talent to the country hasn’t changed, and that it continues to not only need to “draw in people from around the world, but also to “give them pathways to success,” which will in turn lead to success overall for both their communities and for the economy at large. Those pathways mean the means and opportunity to build out skills necessary to contribute in areas of innovation and economic growth. Trudeau also spoke on the subject of smart cities, and specifically the project Canada and the city of Toronto are undertaking with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs to turn a disused portion of Toronto’s waterfront into a new model city of the future. Schmidt asked the PM how Canada came to embrace this idea, in a manner currently unique across nations.

New York on Tech is helping under-resourced students become future tech leaders

New York on Tech is helping under-resourced students become future tech leaders

Jessica Santana and Evin Robinson were riding the subway home from a college leadership conference when they realized they were getting off at the same stop. It turned out, they had grown up in the same neighborhood, no more than 5 blocks apart. Years later, both Santana and Robinson were working six-figure jobs in the tech practices of elite corporations but were disheartened by the homogeneity of their surroundings. The tech industry is the primary generator of new jobs in the US, but the inaccessibility of resources and practical education left students in neighborhoods like Jessica and Evin’s unprepared and unqualified in the eyes of recruiters. So the pair met at a local Starbucks and on the back of a napkin, they outlined what would become New York on Tech (NYOT). By offering comprehensive computational courses and a broad professional network, NYOT hopes to provide under-resourced students in New York City with the skills and infrastructure needed for a successful career in tech.

Real skills have led to real results

What began as a passion project with just 20 students has blossomed into an organization helping more than 1000 students across the city. Unlike the higher-level computer science classes Santana and Robinson saw offered in schools, NYOT aims to focus on more functional skills that are applicable to the day-to-day work of tech professionals. The program caters its curriculums specifically towards areas it believes are in high demand from today’s hiring managers, including front-end and back-end web development, mobile development and UX design. Classes are located at the offices of corporate partners, where students get direct mentorship from engineers and observe how technical skills are actually implemented in various roles. Graduates of NYOT are then given the opportunity to interview for internships at each partner organization, where they can gain practical experience and bolster resumes to be more competitive for future recruiting.

Offering more to more people

Going forward, the company plans to add curriculums that it believes fit the future needs of employers, including classes centered on cyber security, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. On top of serving more students in the New York metropolitan area, Santana and Robinson hope they can bring what they’ve done in New York to a national scale and expand to communities across the country. However, the founders emphasize that they will focus on slow effective scaling, crafting curriculums specific to each locality. “The work we do is really embedded in community. We’re not designing for that community but designing with it”, said Robinson. Santana and Robinson’s broader goal is bigger than “diversity” and inclusion.” “In the industry, we use words like diversity and inclusion. While we and our work value diversity and inclusion, this is about economic justice”, said Santana. “Think about job automation and job displacement. If our students aren’t getting the most critical training, how can we expect them to compete for the jobs of today and tomorrow? This is not just about diversity or inclusion, it is about positioning our country’s talent strategy.” NYOT is now seeing extremely high demand for slots in its programs. With more qualified applicants than they can actually accept, Santana and Robinson hope to bring on more volunteers to help them break down the barriers of access for as many kids as they can.

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