Interview with Jacques Rajotte

“Our role also extends beyond coordination to provide seed funding and identify expert or financial partners” 

Jacques Rajotte, Interim Executive Director of the Montreal International Centre of Expertise in Artificial Intelligence (CEIMIA), explains the role played by the centre within the GPAI and alongside its experts. 

What role does CEIMIA play within the GPAI? 

Centres of expertise like CEIMIA contribute to GPAI governance. We support the Steering Committee and the Board on a range of issues, including the assessment process for applicant countries and experts, except for those experts directly appointed by member countries. Last year, CEIMIA also took the lead in organising the GPAI Summit as a virtual event given the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. That role has passed to INRIA (the French National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology) for this year’s event.

How would you describe your relationship with the expert committees?

With input from a team of centre professionals, we provide technical and logistics support to the experts, who work on a pro bono basis. We help them to organise and structure their assignment and work priorities. When required, we also issue calls for tender to recruit partners with the capabilities required to help these groups deliver the results of their work. For example, we have helped the Data Governance working group by bringing on board the Alan Turing Institute and the Open Data Institute to support GPAI experts in their implementation of applied AI projects for justice system and fiduciary data applications. Our role also extends beyond coordination to provide seed funding and identify expert or financial partners. The support we receive from the Canadian and Quebec governments provides us with a budget equivalent to €10 million spread over five years. This funding also enables the work done by the GPAI to be consolidated in ways that allow it to resonate with the rest of the international community around issues where it initially provided leadership, but will subsequently share the results of its work with this wider community to maximise impact. 

Looking beyond the GPAI, what are your wider ambitions? 

Both within the GPAI and as an institution in our own right, we have made it our mission to make the voice of the Global South heard in the AI ecosystem. One of our first steps was to approach the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC) for funding to set up a residency programme for artificial intelligence experts from the Global South. This initiative will allow us to welcome a number of experts – initially from Africa, but also more widely from Asia and Latin America – into our team. Working with these experts in residence will also help us develop our network within the AI ecosystems of the Global South, and ensure that the projects we implement involve these countries to address their realities and needs. This goal of responsible AI development that delivers universally accessible benefits is also integral to the GPAI mission.   In synergy with the work done at international level, our mandate also covers skills development and international outreach issues for a range of Canadian AI ecosystem stakeholders.

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