‘Big day for automation’ as Canada launches AI supplier framework

By on 21/01/2019
Alex Benay describes his time as CIO at the Government of Canada as "one heck of a ride" and says he is proud of what he and his colleagues have achieved in moving the national digital agenda forward.

The Government of Canada has announced an approved supplier list of companies able to provide the state with artificial intelligence (AI) services and products.

Chief information officer Alex Benay said it was a “big day for automation of Government of Canada services and overall modernisation of our institutions.”

The list of AI vendors, published on January 15, includes large tech companies such as Amazon, McKinsey & Company and Palantir, alongside smaller businesses such as Dessa, which has only been in operation since 2016. 

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The web page announcing the pre-qualified suppliers list said each of the companies selected “met all of the mandatory criteria to provide Canada with responsible and effective AI services, solutions and products.” The successful companies were banded into three groups, depending on the size of the contracts they could work on.

The Canadian government is keen to invest in the development of AI. At the end of 2018, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development, Navdeep Bains, hosted the G7 Multi-stakeholder Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Montreal. 

During the conference, prime minister Justin Trudeau announced an investment of nearly $230m for the AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster (SCALE.AI). This initiative, based in Quebec, brings the retail, manufacturing, transportation, infrastructure, and information and communications technology sectors together to build intelligent supply chains through artificial intelligence and robotics.

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In an article published in Techvibes last month Bains and Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board and minister of digital government, said: “Canada has emerged as a world leader in AI, thanks in large part to significant government investments in this area of digital innovation.”

They added: “Our government wants to make sure that we harness these investments, and the power of AI, to provide better government services to Canadians. With AI, we can reduce backlogs and processing times while offering unprecedented convenience and personalised service to citizens and businesses.”

Alex Benay, who tweeted his congratulations to all of the pre-approved suppliers, will speak in London next month at Global Government Forum’s Innovation 2019 – an international conference, run with the UK’s Cabinet Office, on innovation in government. Civil servants from around the world may register for the free one-day conference at https://innovation.globalgovernmentforum.com

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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