Thursday, April 18, 2024

Considering the AI Frontier for North Central Washington and an Invitation to learn with NCW Tech Alliance

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been at the forefront of many national and state-level conversations over the last year, but the launch of a new resource in January is noteworthy for community leaders across North Central Washington. 

On Jan. 24, a strategic partnership comprised of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, representatives from eight other national agencies, and private sector leaders representing Microsoft, Meta, AWS, Google, OpenAI, and dozens of other big tech enterprises launched an open access platform that is intended to open access to AI research and development tools. 

The National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) Pilot hopes to “expand access and support fundamental, translational, and use-inspired AI-related research with emphasis on societal challenges.” Initial priority topics have been outlined, including developing safe, secure, and trustworthy AI; human health; and environment and infrastructure. Additional priority areas may be added as the pilot progresses. The partners hope that the pilot will provide training, tutorials, and access to educators to provide open-source data sets, tools, and computational processing that they can leverage to create lessons, labs, and applications to help students learn and train to harness the power of these technologies.  

Regional leaders only need to consider a few of the initial pilot projects, including using AI to optimize irrigation systems for water conservation and crop yield in arid regions or using AI to enhance wildfire detection and prevention by analyzing satellite imagery and weather data to see that AI tools will have potential impacts in the way we live, work and play right here in North Central Washington. The NAIRR Pilot is still in its early stages but could be a game-changer. It could open access to the development of applications that are tailor-made to help us consider solutions to countless other local issues of land and resource use, workforce and education planning, housing insecurity, forest management, and others. And, as small business is core to our community foundations, there’s also potential for the development of entrepreneurial innovation and opportunity for small and mid-size enterprises to carve out a space in the AI economy.  

Now is a great time to consider how to support our communities best to take advantage of these windows of opportunity. Regional nonprofit NCW Tech Alliance is forging partnerships with local leaders and organizations across the North Central Washington region to consider how we can support this in a way that creates more equitable opportunities for everyone to have access to the technology tools, resources, skills and education that they need to benefit from the AI revolution.  

This month, we’re launching a community learning campaign to help our communities understand what AI technology is, how it works, and what makes it different. It is important to know that the current generation of AI technologies relies heavily on data. Data is the fuel that powers AI algorithms, such as machine learning and deep learning, which can learn from data patterns and make predictions or decisions. The more data an AI system has, the more accurate and reliable it can be. That is why the NAIRR Pilot provides access to large-scale datasets that can help researchers and developers create and test new AI applications. 

Anyone who is interested in learning more about AI technologies can find free online courses through the NCW Tech Alliance Community Skills Initiative (CSI) hub. The web portal will connect you to more than 200 courses available in Spanish or English, starting with foundational technology skills development to professional technology applications. Whether you are exploring the concepts for the first time, want to develop specific skills for research, get a new job, or just build productivity in your current role, Thanks to a partnership with Microsoft, GitHub, and LinkedIn Learning, there are new generative AI learning Paths this year, as well as cybersecurity and sustainability courses.

In February and March, NCW Tech Alliance is offering a fun, team-based way to learn a few new technology skills. Teams of 2-3 individuals can choose courses, earn certificates and points, and compete as a team for cash prizes. Visit UpSkill-A-Thon | Community Skills Initiative (communityskilling.org) for additional details. NCW Tech Alliance invites you to lean in and learn alongside others who are looking to invest in the development of our communities. 

About NCW Tech Alliance

Since 1999, NCW Tech Alliance has served as the region's tech alliance, championing growth and development in North Central Washington. As a 501(c)3, NCW Tech Alliance's mission is to bring people and technology resources together to support entrepreneurs, STEM education, and technology adoption in North Central Washington. For more information, visit www.ncwtech.org.

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