Quebec's artificial intelligence ecosystem: Five wishes for the new decade

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already part of our daily lives. It is responsible for search engine suggestions, recognition of our voice commands, more accurate medical diagnoses and supply chain optimization.

However, its potential impact on our lives and society is still poorly understood, while substantial gains in innovation, productivity and decision support are within reach. 

Thanks to the excellence of the fundamental and applied research produced in Quebec, our concern for the ethical and societal impacts of AI, and our burgeoning ecosystem, we are well positioned to collectively make the most of this technology.

In light of the discussions that took place during the AI meetings that the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, Scale AI and Forum IA Québec recently co-organized, we would like to express five aspirations for AI to fully benefit Quebecers:

Unleashing its full potential at home
Quebec has a vibrant and dynamic AI sector. Already, hundreds of small and large companies are basing their offerings on AI-powered technologies, and dozens of start-ups are taking off, with the support of incubators, accelerators and venture capital funds whose expertise is an essential driver for the emergence of future major Quebec companies. Homegrown AI companies need to have the support to prove the potential of their solutions to local customers so they can export, grow, and distinguish themselves internationally. We must ensure that we develop the demand in Quebec for the AI tools that our organizations produce.

Making its advantages known to all economic sectors
AI represents a real springboard for productivity and competitiveness for our companies over the long term, in all sectors. It's no coincidence that our governments are committed to creating an environment that fosters innovation and provides the initial impetus for projects that will enable greater adoption of AI. Quebec must take full advantage of AI technologies to improve productivity and innovate across all sectors, including traditional industries such as agriculture, natural resources and manufacturing.

Generating high value-added professional opportunities in Quebec
Attracting, training and retaining talent in Quebec is the key to continuing to excel in AI. We need to foster the development of high-quality researchers, experts and technicians, whether through post-secondary training or continuing education. The education and higher education sectors will meet the challenge by accelerating the development of mathematical, computational, ethical, and legal literacy and developing interdisciplinary programs that lead to highly sought-after and well-paid AI jobs.

Supporting its responsible development
With the International Centre of Expertise in Montréal for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of AI and Digital Technology, Quebec is a reference in the reflection on the issues and risks related to the production and use of AI. Quebec must use this expertise to ensure implementation of the highest standards of ethics and social responsibility for the well-being of society and the protection of the most vulnerable. By doing so, Quebec will stand out around the world and be prepared to meet the needs of the most demanding foreign clients.

Making AI accessible in public services
The management of contact tracing by fax during the pandemic highlighted, in an unprecedented way, the risks that our institutions can run by developing a technology gap. Since the beginning of the health crisis, many AI-powered solutions have been developed, including detecting symptoms, accelerating research and development of treatments and vaccines, as well as optimizing the distribution of critical equipment like PCR tests across the country. Our public institutions must take advantage of AI to improve their services and Quebecers' quality of life in terms of health, education and justice, and to face major societal challenges like climate change.

The world's major powers are counting on AI. Quebec has all the assets to make this field a real driver for economic and social development. It's up to us to show leadership and go for it.

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