Alabama Experts Assembled to Exploit AI Prospects

A new commission has been set up to keep Alabama in the mainstream of developments in artificial intelligence.

The recently created Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence and Associated Technologies is tasked with exploring five areas to determine what government needs to do to support AI research and technology.

“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,” said AI Commission Chairman Greg Canfield, who is also Alabama’s Secretary of Commerce. “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.”

The commission is made up of 25 individuals from across the state, many of whom have experience in AI, workforce development, the legislative process, technology or computer science. The commission will meet over the next seven months to compile a report for Governor Kay Ivey and the state Legislature, recommending strategies and policies on how AI and other emerging technologies will benefit Alabama’s economy.

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“This is an exciting period of time for innovation, entrepreneurship and studying the long range potential of advanced technologies,” said Sen. Jabo Waggoner, who is serving as vice chair of the commission. “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.”

Within the commission, members will be divided into 5 subcommittees to work on:

  • 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

“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,” said Sen. Dan Roberts, a member of the commission who has worked in construction and real estate development.

Other state legislators taking part in the commission are Rep. Kirk Hatcher, a former teacher and founder of Success Roundtable; and Rep. Craig Lipscomb, an architect. Also, Marty Redden, acting secretary of the Alabama Office of Information Technology, is on the commission.

From an academic standpoint, the commission has several members from the state’s two-year colleges and four-year universities.

Curt Carver, vice president for information technology/chief information officer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said, “Artificial intelligence will create new jobs and industries, and UAB is at the forefront of applying it to advance our students, faculty and researchers. Governor Ivey’s commission creates the opportunity to thoughtfully explore artificial intelligence in Alabama so as to maximize economic development and minimize risk.”

In addition to Carver, UAB Informatics Institute Director James Ciminio, M.D., also in on the commission. Cimino is a national leader in the field of biomedical informatics. “Alabama is tackling the issue of increasing the state’s AI workforce and AI utilization head on. Key areas of focus will be increased training of AI professionals and addressing the AI-related issues in health care,” said Cimino. “As the state’s leader in health care informatics, UAB will be a major contributor to guiding the state’s activities geared toward advancing training, attracting investment and applying technology to enhance biomedical research, as well as disease prevention and treatment.”

Other professors on the commission are: Hari Narayanan, the John H. and Gail Watson professor and chair of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Auburn University; Gerry Dozier, the Charles D. McCrary Eminent Chair professor in Computer Science and Software Engineering at Auburn University; Jeff Carver, chair of the University of Alabama Cyber Initiative; Alec Yasinac, professor and dean of the School of Computing at the University of South Alabama; John Beck, a principal research scientist with the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Information Technology and Systems Center; Vicki Karolewics, president of Wallace State Community College; J. Michael Hardin, provost and vice president, professor of Quantitative Analysis at Samford University; and Syed Raza, an instructor in Information Systems Technology at Jefferson State Community College.

The business community is also well represented on the commission. Among the business professional is Joshua Jones, CEO of StrategyWise, an AI and data science consulting firm.

“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,” Jones said. “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.”

Other business professionals on the commission are: Melvin Evans, IT director with Hand Arendall; Jim McLane, CEO of NaphCare, a national healthcare service provider to correctional facilities; Jacob Kosoff, head of Model Risk Management & Validation at Regions Bank; John Brandt, Innovation and Strategy lead at Southern Co.; Leonard Tillman, a partner at law firm Balch & Bingham; Mike Rowell, senior vice president and CIO at Alfa Insurance; James Mizell, a senior account executive at Microsoft; and Jason Asbury, head of Digitel, a managed services provider of communication and networking solutions for small to mid-sized businesses in the Southeast.

Alabama is only the third state in the nation to name a commission on artificial intelligence.

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