Jun 1, 2020

COVID-19: Innovation hub Scale AI funds eight projects

Canada
AI
covid-19
Scale AI
William Girling
3 min
COVID-19: Innovation hub Scale AI funds eight projects
Montreal-based Scale AI is reportedly funding eight new projects aimed at alleviating COVID-19 pandemic strains.

An investment and innovation hub prior...

Montreal-based Scale AI is reportedly funding eight new projects aimed at alleviating COVID-19 pandemic strains. 

An investment and innovation hub prioritising the promotion and accelerated adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) across Canada, Scale AI is one of the country’s five superclusters, groups of companies seeking to digitally transform the nation’s technology. 

Launching a call for projects and solutions that could leverage AI to solve real-world problems experienced by Canadians as a result of the pandemic, the company received over 120 entrees in only three weeks. 

Having selected eight of the best which have passed critical analysis and received approval, Scale AI will be providing an overall investment of CA$3.4mn.

Accelerating R&D

Scale AI’s decision reflects its overall mission to hasten the development of automation technology generally, but particularly now when its usage could have significant qualitative results.

"To face the crisis, we have implemented an exceptional program aimed at developing and financing relevant and effective projects very quickly,” said Julien Billot, GM.

“With projects that include analysis tools for research and clinical trials, coordination of patient services, supply management for drugs, medical equipment and food and essentials, AI has once again demonstrated its ability to support all sectors in improving their efficiency."

The positive progress being made by Scale AI, as a supercluster, was praised by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, as positive proof that the concept held value.

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"Our government is mobilizing its resources in the fight against COVID-19, and it's great to see Industry doing its part. 

“I'm proud of the superclusters, including Scale AI, for stepping up to leverage their broad membership and Canada's strong industrial base to confront COVID-19. Together, we will protect the health and safety of all Canadians.”

An integrated response

Of the eight projects selected by Scale AI for progression, successful companies carrying these developments out include Roche Diagnostics, The Montreal Port Authority and CargoM and AlayaCare.

The topics covered in the projects themselves include optimising the distribution of diagnostic tests, augmentation for homecare response and chatbots configured to dispense information and advice on the COVID-19 virus. 

Regarding the integrated approach that Scale AI is taking, Hélène Desmarais, co-chair, stated, "The mission of Scale AI is to support Canada's prosperity and growth. 

“Responding in times of crisis is self-evident and it is in this spirit that we have mobilized our team to participate in the national effort to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic. While agility is crucial, these projects also demonstrate that AI is a reality today, with solutions that can be deployed quickly."

For more information on business topics in the United States, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief North America

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Jun 12, 2021

How changing your company's software code can prevent bias

Deltek
diversity
softwarecode
inclusivity
Lisa Roberts, Senior Director ...
3 min
Removing biased terminology from software can help organisations create a more inclusive culture, argues Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR at Deltek

Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day. 

Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at  and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization. 

Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.

Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?  

We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization

What impact can exclusive terms have on employees? 

Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.    

Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code

Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!

What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?

What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.

What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology? 

My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve. 

 

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