The first Brussels’ AI week is taking shape

What a day we had yesterday, everything we ever wanted our AI community to become just happened overnight

It started with a call last week from Ward, our original data science expert in residence from when we first created the data innovation Hub at AXA in 2015. He invited me to meet Tom and Maarten who are driving the data initiatives at DPG, the Media concern from the Van Thillo family that reaches 8 out of 10 people from Flanders with news, entertainment and mobile services, with 35 brands like VTM, Humo, and Mobile Viking.

And what a meeting we had. Maarten said that 5 years ago he was at the VUB working in the AI Lab from dr Nowé when he started to attend our datascience meetups, Tom said that he loved our yearly diSummit as a source of inspiration and that it was time for them to do something back for the community. So they talked about their team and the importance of analytics in their daily work where the data they gather generates enough insight to understand what their 4,6 million customers really want, in such a way that AI has now become the real program director.

What a journey they had in the past few years. And, what an inspiration they are for every manager that is in charge of delivering the value of AI. I was overexcited; everything we ever wanted was taking shape. 6 years ago, we started to bring people together to discover what data science was all about. We created the data science community, built the data innovation hub, organised about 200 meetups, 4 data science boot camps & JobFairs, and we are currently preparing the 6th data innovation summit. Roughly, bringing everybody involved in data and analytics from Belgium together to network and inspire each other. 

Today we have established our home in the digital innovation hub of DigitYser. Individual teams are driving meetups in all major universities of Belgium, and the initial meetup members are driving their teams in most of the major corporations in Belgium. And, all have kept their open spirit of the early days, everyone is eager to share their experience and inspire new managers to use data science to build a better world.

So, this leads us to the reason we organise the first AI-week because we now have enough practical use cases showing the value of data, enough examples to share with everyone who wants to discover the importance of AI. There is no more time to waste; it is time to start your AI project now.

Check out startai.be to book your next meeting and training, and join Tom & Maarten on Thursday afternoon, March 19th for a unique ‘AI in the Media industry’ showcase. Besides, book your discovery tour build around the 15 AI pop-up demos, and finish it off with a maturity workshop to identify the best AI project for your company. 

If you are an expert and you want to share you can:

  • Have a pop-up demo and demonstrate the value of AI with a practical example
  • Host a workshop, run a master class, present at a topic

If you are eager to learn more about the value of AI, you can:

  • Attend the AI discovery tour 
  • Participate in the different workshops and masterclasses
  • Network during the AI4BElgium event and the data science meetup

DiSummit 2019 in a nutshell and why it’s a place to be on June 26th!

Interview by Tatiana Donets with Philippe Van Impe

On June 26th the AI4Belgium & Data Science Community will hold their 5th annual Summit. You can expect a day packed with innovative ideas and discussions, lots of networking opportunities and perhaps most importantly a chance to have fun with professionals from a wide array of backgrounds. .

This is already the fifth time you organise the DiSummit. Why did you decide to dedicate this year edition to the theme of « Being human in the age of AI »?

Philippe Van Impe: Last year we developed the theme of « AI demystification », showing that in Belgium we have been active in the AI domain for over twenty years and lived through two AI winters already.

The year before we were focussing on « Data4good initiatives » (or how we can use data to build a better world).

Taking into account what was going on at European level (for example the work of Natalie Smuha coordinating a European agreement called Draft Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI), as well as different local initiatives such as #AI4Belgium, it was natural that the human side of AI would get a podium this year.

In my opinion it is a good, positive theme that will promote AI and explain that it is not a “dangerous” thing.

What will be the main topics covered during this edition?

Philippe Van Impe: We will mostly focus on how to drive ethical AI into business and corporate world. We will also host the AI-awards – showing that today Belgium has a lot of start-ups using AI as a main differentiator to their product.

On top of this we’ll keep the formula that worked well last year:

  1. Big networking event of the entire #AI4belgium and Datascience community.
  2. Thirty one-hour workshops and master classes.
  3. More than forty inspiring presentations.

Speaking of ethics: lately we heard a lot about a biased AI raising a question of gender and racial discrimination. In your opinion how can the AI contribute to promote gender or equality for example?

Philippe Van Impe: The first conference we organised five years ago turned out to have 85% of male speakers. In 2016 we have already counterbalanced this by focussing on women in AI.

Having a gender-balanced agenda is just normal and is something that we want to achieve, even if the ladies are a little bit less proactive in proposing pitches. It is our task as a community to motivate them to share their ideas. This will automatically lead to a more balanced agenda where other topics are being put forward.

To answer your question it is clear that AI could include additional test to make sure that obvious bias is taken out of the equation. I have seen different start-ups promoting the fact that they are an ethical AI company.

Can you name some of your keynote speakers?

Philippe Van Impe: This year we have forty-five outstanding speakers. Here are some of them:

  • Luc Julia – worked on Siri and is currently driving innovation at Samsung.
  • Stephen Brobst – advised Obama on Bigdata issues and is now CTO of Teradata.
  • Caroline Pauwels & Yvon Englert –working hard to promote bilingual education in Brussels
  • Lorelien Hoet will explain us the basics of Ethical AI.

Europe is considered to be way behind USA and China in terms of AI race. How do you see a possible contribution of Brussels and Europe to AI development?

Philippe Van Impe: I believe we are well positioned in terms of our education system. Certainly in Belgium quantitative sciences are amongst the best taught subjects.

The fact that we are in the middle of the Ethical AI discussion will help us a lot: already today we see this topic presented to the students in the different data science courses.

We cannot compete in the R&D area. Certainly US, with its universities and companies, such as Google, Amazon, Apple, are far ahead – most of the AI innovations will come from there.

China, on the other hand, is stronger in using technology in practical cases. They are better in rolling out the technology. I believe that it is where we can make a difference as well.

Our country is a complex country with different rules and languages, so if you develop a solution here it will automatically include all the possible alternatives needed to deploy in any other country.

In your opinion may this event be of interest for general public outside Data science and AI community and why?

Philippe Van Impe: Yes, of course. Everyone uses AI today, so it is good for people to understand its limitations. During the event we will demonstrate many different applications where AI is used.

And finally can you give us your three main reasons to attend DiSummit 2019?

Philippe Van Impe: Because it is the annual event of the AI4Belgium and datascience community.
There are many reasons why you should come to DiSummit 2019 but if I have to choose, here are my main three:

  1. To inspire your team with real live business cases.
  2. To learn new techniques and develop new ideas in the workshops.
  3. To meet opinion leaders and be part of the AI4Belgium network.

Anything else you would like to add ?

Philippe Van Impe: Yes I would like to thank all our partners over the past years we are still working with the same partners but their number has increase at each event. Special thanks to:

  • all communities & meetups groups that are contributing each year to the success of this event
  • the speakers and trainers who are going to share their experience with all of us
  • the structural partners icity.brussels, hub.brussels, digityser.org, AI4Belgium and Accenture.
  • The numerous partners who are always supporting our activities

 

About diSummit:

On June 26th the AI4Belgium & Data Science Community will hold their 5th annual Summit. You can expect a day packed with innovative ideas and discussions, lots of networking opportunities and perhaps most importantly a chance to have fun with professionals from a wide array of backgrounds.

Like last year our event will take place at the ULB in Brussels in building K. On the main stage we will have 45 esteemed speakers who will seek to inspire you and 6 other parallel tracks. We have also prepared 12 master classes on topics as diverse and critical as ethics, recruiting and architecture as well as 12 workshops for the more hands-on people .

Furthermore, the Job fair will be bigger and better than ever before! There will be a space for the regional AI-initiatives and like last year a partner village will be on the ground floor.

In addition to this, this year we are adding the AI Awards to reward the most interesting AI-projects and the most promising AI-startup.

more info: disummit.org – Facebook – Twitter  – Linkedin – Instagram – Youtube