The Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Associated Technologies recently held its inaugural meeting, at which commission members elected Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield as chairman and State Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) as vice-chairman.
The commission plans to schedule additional meetings over the next seven months, with all meetings being open to the public.
The members will deliver a report in May to Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, recommending strategies and policies on how AI and other emerging technologies will be of benefit to the Yellowhammer State’s economy.
In a statement on Thursday, Canfield explained the importance of the commission’s work.
“Artificial intelligence is a powerful, disruptive technology that has the potential to forever change the way we live our lives and how businesses across Alabama operate,” he emphasized.
“It’s critical that we understand how AI will bring about these sweeping changes, and this Commission will help us develop insights into what the future has in store for Alabama’s citizens and businesses,” Canfield concluded.
Waggoner spearheaded the legislative resolution that formed the commission. His leadership has been, and continues to be instrumental, in this process. The powerful chair of the Senate Rules Committee identified the goal of Alabama being on the cutting edge of AI research and job creation in the technology sector.
“We want Alabama to be a leader in AI research, innovation, technology start-ups, and technology jobs,” Waggoner stated. We believe that we are competitive with other states.”
He continued, “The Commission will look at how Alabama is positioned and ready for the opportunities of tomorrow. Those are some of the issues and questions this Commission is going to answer. We will meet with key business groups and different industry sectors to understand the impact of AI and automation on their industries.”
According to Waggoner, the commission will also examine how schools and universities can develop AI-educational programs, and investigate what privacy safeguards might be needed to protect consumers.
“We want Alabama’s education system in a place where we can equip students with AI-relevant skills through engineering and technology classes and apprenticeship programs,” he added. “As we promote innovation and educational readiness, we must also protect the privacy rights of citizens, and examine whether existing state laws are effective in regulating these emerging technologies. There’s a lot of work ahead.”
The commission will be divided up into five sub-committees, focused on the following:
- state regulations, government oversight, and potential legislative action;
- education and workforce development;
- healthcare and medical services;
- future and evolving industries, economic development, and research;
- ethics, privacy and security.
The subcommittees will begin their work in mid-October.
State Senator Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) was appointed to the commission by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston). Roberts came away from the body’s initial meeting impressed at the experience and expertise of its membership.
“Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning are very complex subjects. Thankfully, I think we have some of the finest minds in our state working on this project. The sub committees that have been established will allow every person on the commission to hone in on their particular areas of expertise,” Roberts outlined.
The 25 members of the commission are as follows:
Greg Canfield – Secretary of Commerce (chairman)
Marty Redden – Acting secretary of the Alabama Office of Information Technology
1. Dr. Hari Narayanan— Auburn
2. Dr. Gerry Dozier— Auburn
3. Dr. Jeff Carver – UA (Tuscaloosa)
4. Dr. Curt Carver – UAB
5. Dr. Alec Yasinac – USA
6. Dr. John Beck – UAH
7. Dr. James Cimino – UAB
8. Melvin Evans – Hand Arendall
9. Jim McLane – NaphCare
10. Jacob Kosoff – Regions Bank
Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth’s appointees:
Joshua Jones – StrategyWise
Dr. Vicki Karolewics – Wallace State Community College
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon’s appointees:
Rep. Kirk Hatcher
Rep. Craig Lipscomb
Sen. Jabo Waggoner (Vice-chair)
Sen. Dan Roberts
Non-Voting members appointed by the governor:
J. Michael Hardin – Provost & vice president at Samford University
John Brandt – Southern Company
Leonard Tillman – Balch & Bingham
Mike Rowell – Senior VP & CIO at ALFA Insurance
James Mizell – Senior account executive at Microsoft
Jason Asbury – NXTsoft
Dr. Syed Raza – Jefferson State Community College
An Alabama CEO, also a commission member, said artificial intelligence is on the cusp of transforming every industry.
“Artificial intelligence is rapidly changing every industry, and it is incredibly important for us as a state to think strategically about what that means to our economy,” advised Joshua Jones, CEO of Birmingham-based StrategyWise, an AI and data science consulting firm.
He concluded, “I applaud Senator Waggoner and Secretary Canfield for leading Alabama to be one of the first states to really address these opportunities and changing dynamics systematically. It sends a message to the rest of the U.S. that Alabama is serious about investing in our future, and we’re growing our tech-based ecosystem. For companies that want to leverage all that AI has to offer, we’re going to be prepared with a trained workforce, accommodating public policy, and a strong tech infrastructure.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn