At Louisville’s Entrepreneur Center, Mayor Greg Fischer announced a three-year digital alliance with Microsoft to boost the region’s digital transformation and accelerate AI practices. The remarks were part of a kick-off event for a weekend of start-up activities at the center, which supports the growth of local tech companies. The alliance will focus on strengthening the region’s ability to navigate its major industries’ digital transformation by skilling the population in the key digital fronts of the future: artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and data science.
Upon signing Mayor Fischer said, “Artificial intelligence is the next frontier in technology, and through this collaboration with Microsoft, we will prepare our workforce for the tech revolution and create economic opportunity, while not losing sight of the need for equity within economic growth. We are excited to collaborate with Microsoft to ensure Louisville residents and businesses are ready for the future economy.”
With a physical hub in the Entrepreneur Center in Louisville’s Innovation District, the alliance will encompass public events, technology investment, and skills training for all ages throughout the greater Louisville area, with a population of approximately 620,000 people.
Microsoft will collaborate with the city of Louisville, the Brookings Institute, and the University of Louisville as well as other local partners in this wide-reaching public-private initiative to increase digital skills along the full continuum of the educational pipeline.
Also presenting at the event was Louisville Chief of Civic Innovation and Technology Grace Simrall who said, “In essence, the goal of this collaboration is to create a regional hub, a center of gravity for AI and IoT.”
A changing landscape
In recent years, some 12% of jobs in the Louisville region have been in manufacturing, employing over 250,000 workers. Some 285,000 people in the region are currently working in healthcare and education. As digital transformation brings increased efficiency to these and other industries, there will be a growing demand for workers who command strong digital skills. In addition to manufacturing and healthcare, AI will bring new opportunities in fields ranging from public safety to smart building design and construction. The alliance will help bridge the digital divide to help communities thrive in the coming job market.
Focus on AI
The digital alliance will work to create a comprehensive strategy focusing on the impact of AI, IoT, and data science and on how to help communities adapt to them. All components of the digital alliance will emphasize building people’s agility with these technologies. Four fellows will be sponsored to act as ambassadors for the city’s AI initiatives within industry and non-profit organizations. Public events will include ideation and design-thinking workshops and symposiums to explore what an AI future looks like.
Full lifecycle educational pipeline
The digital alliance will take a multi-pronged approach to reach people at various points along the continuum of job readiness, from familiarizing children with the basic concepts of digital literacy to empowering current or returning members of the workforce to reskill and upskill for the new economy.
The alliance will provide virtual and in-person programs for youth in the schools and during public events activities for the entire K-12 and P-20 learning spectrum. Programs will include one-time public events such as youth esports and robotics competitions and longer programs including the following.
- YouthSpark Live events bring young people together to plan their futures. Students identify necessary skills, learn how technology fits in, and get connected to programs that will help them get where they want to go. The events focus on three key areas: employment, careers and entrepreneurship.
- DigiGirlz teaches middle and high school girls about technology careers, connects them with STEM industry professionals and Microsoft employees, and lets them participate in hands-on computer science workshops.
- DigiCamps provides the same experience of developing and learning about cutting-edge technologies as DigiGirlz for both girls and boys.
Training the workforce
The digital alliance will coordinate and host digital literacy workshops for parents, transitioning members of the workforce and veterans to expand digital literacy skills in a consistent, predictable manner using Microsoft’s Digital Literacy curriculum. The training, which is available in 30 languages, is online and downloadable. In addition, the three training levels, from basic to advanced, are developed to be self-directed and self-paced.
The digital literacy curriculum starts with the absolute basics of computer and software use and progresses to larger issues of online safety and digital lifestyles. Microsoft will provide resources for Train the Trainer sessions for Microsoft certifications through the Digital Literacy curriculum.
Developing thought leadership
The alliance will host a high-level AI, IoT, and Data Science Summit in Louisville in the coming year, corporate AI briefings, and business roundtables. Executive briefings will be held at the Microsoft Executive Briefing Center in Redmond, WA, to support corporate digital transformation with directors and cabinet officials focused on innovation, AI, cybersecurity, and digital transformation.
To tap into and further grow the capacity of existing tech leaders, the digital alliance will host at least three start-up and tech hackathons focused on civic innovation. Hackathons connect the city with local tech leaders, start-ups, partners, and technology thought leaders to explore solutions to local challenges. The Civic Innovation hackathon will challenge participants to use design thinking and technology to address topics such as public safety, security, smart city, transportation, and education. Microsoft will aid with program development, session facilitators, and speakers.
For more details about the Louisville digital alliance, please see the press release from the Office of Mayor Greg Fischer.
Learn more about how Microsoft is empowering digital transformation and innovation for state and local governments at the Microsoft Smart Cities website.
Learn more about this and other initiatives from the Brookings Institute.
To stay on top of the latest research on the potential for AI in the public sphere, access Microsoft’s resource guide to AI in government.