AIGrrls on Nurturing AI and Community

Original article can be found here (source): Artificial Intelligence on Medium

AIGrrls on Nurturing AI and Community

Our AIGrrls Mixer was virtual this month and featured six speakers focusing on AI and Community.

Future intelligent systems are set to transform how we live, travel, learn, and relate to each other. At this month’s AIGrrls virtual mixer, six speakers from across civic tech, government, and the private sector delved into why the time to nurture and build an inclusive community around artificial intelligence (AI) is now.

“AIGrrls is the embodiment of what is needed in an uncertain time. We focused this month on community. While isolated and ‘sheltering in place’ we need to keep and maintain a sense of community. The collaboration through this forum is real and actionable and I encourage others to join us!” said Jennifer Bonine, CEO of and a Founding Sponsor of AIGrrls.

PinkLion AI is a Google Gradient Ventures-backed startup that brings AI to the world’s App teams. Jennifer talked about embracing and supporting women and youth and creating inclusion of cultures as we implement and humanize AI solutions for the organizations we work with.

Jennifer also shared information about the Youth Hackathon her company will be leading to help educate children on Artificial Intelligence and have them come up with a business plan to create technology that improves kindness and collaboration for youth. If you’re interested in learning more email:

Similarly, Hadeel Al-Tashi of WeWork Labs in Washington DC, our AIGrrls digital sponsor, talked about the importance of fostering inclusivity and especially now with the global pandemic, finding ways to help early stage startups continue to thrive with virtual events like AIGrrls.

Realizing that there is a gaping hole in AI algorithms that will define our future engagements, I talked about the future of Cultural Intelligence in AI. From the vantage point of our tech startup IVOW, AI, I pointed out the need to build deeply inclusive technology to make AI more knowledgeable and sensitive to the diversity of human experiences. IVOW stands for Intelligence Voices of Wisdom.

We also talked about the increasingly significant role voice interfaces will play in our lives, and introduced our chatbot, digital storyteller Sina, currently a demo on Google Assistant. Sina is deeply interested in global cultures but just like other AIs, Sina is in need of new computational datasets to make her and future AI products and solutions more relevant to global communities.

Sheena Sharifi of USAID is a global health professional with a passion for eradicating HIV and empowering women in their health. She recently returned from Kenya and Namibia, as the State Department recalled Americans working overseas due to increasing COVID-19 cases globally.

As a featured speaker, Sheena talked about her field experience in subsaharan Africa and explored ways the global COVID-19 epidemic can draw upon lessons learned from the global HIV response.

While emphasizing the important caveat that viruses and corresponding diseases are quite different, Sheena noted some of the transferable lessons for assisting global coordination:

  • Provide expertise on logistics and coordination for point-of-care testing
  • Encourage (patient-protected) open data use across organizations to provide better picture of epidemic, prevalence and incidence
  • Empower communities to combat stigma & discrimination against suspected or confirmed cases

Sheena also asked the AI Community to share new avenues for technology and AI to enhance epidemic response. She noted that technology can play a huge role in:

Mitigating social isolation and loneliness

Linking those in need of care during social distancing (telemedicine)

Analytics for global supply chains

Jessica Davis is Director of Government Programs and Initiatives at Microsoft, based in the company’s DC office. In her current role, Jessica focuses on the government’s transformational efforts, aligned to federal government initiatives like the President Management Agenda (PMA), Cloud Smart, and American AI strategy.

“We believe that AI is a defining technology of our time, and we are optimistic about what AI can do for people, industry, and society — now and in the future. We are working to ensure that these AI breakthroughs are available to everyone. Our approach to AI is grounded in, and consistent with, our company mission to help every person and organization on the planet to achieve more,” Jessica said.

Microsoft is working to help people get the new skills they need, with efforts like the launch of AI Business School for Government, designed specifically to help government leaders address key challenges around developing and implementing an AI-driven approach.

To help further those efforts, Jessica told us that Microsoft is investing $115 million over five years in the AI for Good initiative, which provides funding, technology, and expertise to individuals, nonprofits, and organizations so they can tackle some of society’s big challenges. This effort includes addressing environmental challenges with AI for Earth, aiding in humanitarian efforts through AI for Humanitarian Action, and improving accessibility through AI for Accessibility.

“We also are investing in our own efforts to use AI for good with apps like Seeing AI, which is designed to empower people who are blind or have low vision by describing people, objects and text around them, and projects such as FarmBeats, which is enabling farmers to increase their yields with fewer resources and less environmental impact,” Jessica added.

Our AIGrrls mixer featured insights into why civic tech service is important now more than ever. Joshua Di Frances is Executive Director of the Presidential Innovation Fellowship program. As part of this role, he serves as a strategic advisor to senior government leaders on a wide range of topics, including emerging technology, workforce development, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotic process automation.

Presidential Innovation Fellows at the Indian Treaty Room in 2019

Josh also serves on the senior executive team of the Technology Transformation Services, which is taking a lead role in driving adoption of AI technologies across the federal government. Josh outlined some of the AI initiatives led by Presidential Innovation Fellows across federal agencies, including this one at the US Department of Veteran Affairs focusing on Veterans Benefits:

The PIF program is currently taking applications. Click here to learn how to apply.

Krista Kinnard is the Director of the Artificial Intelligence Center of Excellence in the Technology Transformation Services within GSA. Since 2019, she has led the team that is enabling agencies to develop AI solutions to meet unique business challenges by incorporating machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, intelligent process design, and robotic process automation (RPA) across the organization.

Krista emphasized how AI is much more than an algorithm and a technical engineer. Truly intelligent systems are just that — systems. The future of AI is about community, connection, and collaboration. It’s about bringing diverse technical experts together across our technical silos to achieve more.

Krista also serves as the AI lead with the Artificial Intelligence Community of Practice (CoP). The AI CoP is a government-wide Community of Practice harnessing the advancements and accelerating the adoption of AI across the federal government. Before becoming Director of the Center, Krista worked as a data scientist where she partnered with federal agencies to build AI solutions.

Erica Ford is a Senior Manager in EY’s People Advisory Services, focused on designing and implementing large change management programs in the context of organizational transformations for federal, state, and local governments. Her focus is building confidence and resilience among the many stakeholders involved in a transformation.

Erica’s question to all of us working in inclusive technology is “How can the experience of digital-driven change create community?” How can we build more collaborative processes that bring the earliest and most important users into the equation to co-design solutions? How can we work in close connection with those whose jobs will change as the result of automation? It’s an opportunity, a dream… rather than a fear… Storytelling…

AIGrrls is a networking event powered by IVOW AI, a US tech company focused on AI and cultural content now incubating at WeWork DC Labs. Since Fall 2019, some 70 civic tech leaders, AI practitioners, data scientists and entrepreneurs in the United States have spoken at our events including Paula Davis, Head of AI and Analytics at Deloitte; Nicole Wong, former Deputy CTO of the White House; and Amarda Shehu, Director of Shehu Machine Learning Lab at George Mason University.

Thanks to our amazing Founding Sponsor, and Digital Sponsor WeWork DC Labs for making this event possible. The next virtual AIGrrls Mixer is on Tuesday, April 28. The topic is AI Startups. To get involved — or to sponsor us — please email