Stephen Erickson

Stephen Erickson

Director of Consulting Services

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The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has simultaneously captured the attention of Wall Street, Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, with increased anticipation of far-reaching impacts to the ways in which we work, live, secure, defend and govern. With applicability across every role and domain, and myriad prospects for enhanced quality of life, the race for global AI leadership is well underway.

A recent Gallup poll shows most American citizens hold a positive attitude toward AI and recognize the potential for it to fundamentally alter their daily lives. However, a majority also anticipate downsides from AI, including the automation of private sector jobs, as well as an increased widening of the wealth gap.

Some federal government agencies have made progress recently in introducing intelligent automation and AI applications, in an effort to make agency operations more efficient.

On the cautionary side, however, the intelligence community, the Department of Defense, and other federal agencies share growing concerns related to threats these emerging technologies pose to the U.S. and its national security interests, as cited in a report released by the GAO this past December.

Meeting the challenge

The challenges AI raises extend beyond the technological and security advances that must be made. Organizations also must collaborate to adopt ethical and governance standards. They must define policies to address security, privacy and legal concerns, as AI becomes more ingrained in our daily lives. Explainable AI (XAI)—techniques that seek to provide transparency into how an AI model arrived at its decisions—continues to be a developing field, with its potential to address concerns of individual rights, equity and other societal impacts.

Significantly, the public and private sectors, including academic and research institutions, must collaborate to tackle these tough issues, as this collaboration will be a key pillar of success in achieving global leadership in AI.

Given the increased focus and investment in AI globally, President Trump recently signed an Executive Order (EO) on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence to set an overarching vision for achieving this goal. The EO outlines a strategic framework for accelerating federal AI investment, innovation and adoption. A primary theme that resonated with me in President Trump’s order is the desire for collaboration among an R&D ecosystem of industry, academia and government.

The EO kicks off the American AI Initiative, a new effort coordinated by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The American AI Initiative seeks to identify opportunities to apply AI in protecting the economic and national security interests of the U.S., as well as spur advancements in areas such as healthcare, robotics and transportation to improve quality of life for all society.

With collaboration between OSTP, federal agencies, industry and educational institutions, the initiative will focus on increasing the pace of federal AI innovation and adoption. Investments to prepare the American workforce for tomorrow’s AI-driven business ecosystem will also be a priority.

Key strategic initiatives

In reviewing the strategic objectives set forth in the EO, I reflected on many of the ways in which CGI Federal has been actively supporting the spirit and vision of the American AI Initiative. Two objectives stood out to me in particular from the perspective of public-private partnerships:

First: “Promote sustained investment in AI R&D in collaboration with industry, academia, international partners and allies, […] and rapidly transition those breakthroughs into capabilities that contribute to our economic and national security.”

CGI Federal is an active sponsor and partner of the Center for Visual and Decision Informatics (CVDI), an NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center. As an industry participant, CVDI is one such collaboration we are involved in between government, academia and industry. Through CVDI and other long-standing partnerships, we have with national and international research institutions including the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, CGI Federal and university data scientists jointly evaluate the applicability of big data, AI and blockchain research to address federal mission challenges. With a significant number of AI advances originating from academia, we view this type of partnership as a critical accelerator to federal AI adoption.

Second: “Train the next generation of American AI researchers and users through apprenticeships; skills programs; and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with an emphasis on computer science, to ensure that American workers, including Federal workers, are capable of taking full advantage of the opportunities of AI.”

The race for global leadership in AI is a marathon, and to deliver on the vision set forth in the EO, we must start early to inspire and train future generations of researchers and engineers to enter the race. The proliferation of AI will open up new career paths, jobs and skillsets over the coming decades. Investment in STEM not only provides an immediate positive impact to our youth, but is also an essential early step in empowering the workforce of the future.

Through our nationally recognized STEM@CGI program, led in the U.S. by my colleague Anne Swanson, CGI’s talented experts volunteer time and expertise to deliver STEM camps, teacher training and career events at schools in our local communities. To hear about examples of the impact our STEM@CGI program is having across the U.S., I invite you to watch this video feature of the program in Lafayette, and read this brief story about how our CGI team in Belton, Texas is helping local high school students pursue careers in Computer Science.

Winning the AI race

Nations around the world are vying for the top spot in the global race for AI dominance. Billions of investment dollars are planned for programs such as the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 for the EU and an AI industrial fund recently announced by the city of Tianjin, China. In my view, we will find one thing in common driving success within all of these programs: public-private partnerships. Those who leverage these partnerships effectively, with a focus on the responsible application of AI, will accelerate innovation and achieve greater outcomes for their citizens.

Look for additional blog posts from CGI in the coming weeks regarding other aspects of the EO, including the importance of open data initiatives, technical standards, and reduced barriers to the safe testing and deployment of AI technologies. To learn more about CGI Federal’s Intelligent Automation capabilities, including AI, visit our Intelligent Automation webpage.

About this author

Stephen Erickson

Stephen Erickson

Director of Consulting Services

Stephen Erickson leads the incubation of new digital services and solutions for Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation within CGI Federal’s Emerging Technologies Practice (ETP). Stephen has over 20 years of experience in enterprise software architecture, development, and implementation, having served both Fortune 500 customers ...