AI in Canada: meeting the opportunity

A Canadian flag in front of office high-rises

The era of AI is here, ushering in a transformative wave with potential to touch every facet of our lives and enhance our experiences in unprecedented ways. It is not just a technological advancement; it is a societal shift that is propelling us into a future where innovation takes center stage.

Yet, amid this excitement, a critical mandate remains; as we delve into this AI-powered future, it is imperative that we innovate responsibly, and any progress aligns with human values. With this exciting technological revolution, the role of human oversight cannot be overstated. AI is a tool harnessed by human ingenuity. Our ability to guide, govern, and ensure responsible deployment of AI is paramount. Regulation is crucial to helping ensure that, while we explore AI’s vast potential, we do so responsibly.

Canada stands at the forefront of championing responsible AI governance.

The recent unveiling of a Canadian code of conduct for advanced AI systems and contributions to the historic G7 Hiroshima Process position Canada as a global leader, highlighting Canada’s commitment to responsible AI deployment. Codes of conduct serve as invaluable tools, complementing the ongoing efforts of governments worldwide, as they craft legislative and regulatory frameworks for AI. Codes provide the cornerstone upon which a globally interoperable framework can be built among G7 countries and other allies. Concurrently, the Government of Canada’s proposed Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (Bill C-27) signifies a pivotal moment and embodies a crucial step in responsible regulation.

At Microsoft, we champion the need for robust legislation that navigates the complexities of AI, ensuring we safeguard privacy, civil liberties, and ethical considerations, while nurturing the potential of this revolutionary technology. And in the heart of this transformation, we remain steadfast in our commitment to empower groundbreaking initiatives that demonstrate our nation’s leadership in AI.

And we have already started to see the breakthroughs transpire.

During the pandemic, Canada’s health care sector mitigated the spread of infections, enhanced patient safety, and charted a path toward a future where AI solutions helped to revolutionize health care and improve patient outcomes. By harnessing the power of AI technologies, Canadian health care organizations such as Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) and BC Cancer are also unravelling hidden insights within vast datasets, leading to breakthroughs in cancer treatments.

The City of Kelowna is developing AI tools to speed up the building permit process by 20-30%, enhancing the overall experience of citizens and government workers alike: citizens who receive frictionless service and government workers whose wellbeing improves from the result of lower churn from data overload and repetitive work.

In partnership with Ontario Power Generation (OPG), we are working to shape a net-zero and environmentally resilient future where AI solutions are instrumental in powering new energy insights, matching local carbon-free sources, reducing emissions, and shaping a sustainable energy landscape.

Across the country, AltaML is partnering with the Government of Alberta and Alberta Wildfire to build Microsoft AI-powered solutions to predict the likelihood of fire in any region, helping to determine how best to deploy scarce resources resulting in $2 million-$5 million in annual savings and helping protect lives.

It makes me particularly proud that Microsoft brought Inuktitut, the language of more than 70% of Nunavut’s population, to Microsoft’s AI-powered Translator. Our work to help preserve cultural heritage with the Government of Nunavut gives tangible expression to Canadian truth and reconciliation.

Ensuring that AI benefits everyone will take collaboration across a diverse set of stakeholders, including policymakers, academics, civil society, and industry to ensure many voices and community interests are considered. Government and industry have a shared responsibility to make certain that Canada’s workforce is equipped with the skills, knowledge, and opportunity to gain jobs and increase livelihoods in an AI economy.

Microsoft is committed to helping people and communities learn how to harness the power of AI through our new AI Skills Initiative, and to continuing to invest in local talent capacity, including by building initiatives such as the Canadian Tech Talent Accelerator, launched in partnership with the DIGITAL, NPower Canada, and CIBC Foundation.

The paper shares our suggestions for the strong regulatory guardrails we believe are needed to see AI shape more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable communities while prioritizing the safety, security and trust of citizens, governments, and businesses across Canada.

As Microsoft Canada celebrates our part in Canada’s AI-transformative journey, we are also mindful of the road ahead. AI’s potential is vast, and with responsible regulation, it remains a force for good, enriching lives and empowering Canada.

The collaborative partnership between Canada and Microsoft exemplifies the fusion of innovation with ethics, shaping a future where AI serves humanity, enriches the lives of Canadians, and propels our great nation toward a future defined by boundless possibilities. Microsoft is deeply committed to this journey where Canada continues to lead, inspire, and thrive in the digital age.

Read the full paper, “Meeting the opportunity and governing AI in Canada,” here.

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