Microsoft France has announced a commitment to invest $30 million over three years to further France’s artificial intelligence (AI) development. The announcement, which took place at the AI for Humanity summit at the Collège de France, is timed with France’s new AI initiative, which was recently ambitioned by President Emmanuel Macron.
Carlo Purassanta, President of Microsoft France, states that “I am proud to be involved with the French digital ecosystem to create the conditions for the emergence of AI champions in the service of today’s and tomorrow’s major challenges from France.”
“We are convinced that France has major strengths to actively contribute to the development of artificial Intelligence technologies in the respect and interest of humans.”
Making an impact
Microsoft’s new commitment sees the creation of two programmes – AI Impact and AI Skills.
AI Impact will bring together selected Microsoft customers and partners including Altran, AXA, Air-France KLM, Engie, Groupe Bouygues, Groupe Hervé, Orange, Schneider Electric, SNCF, Accenture, Capgemini, and more, with the aim of working together to ensure that AI developments have a positive impact in daily life in France, such as environmental, transport, health and accessibility benefits.
In addition, the AI Impact group will work together to create AI developments which are transparent in their use of data, while following ethical guidelines to instil confidence in the technology and respecting privacy.
The collective will publish an annual report on topics put forward by its members, which will also include recommendations for public authorities.
Jérôme Simeon, General Manager of the Application Services France activity at Capgemini, who is also part of the AI Impact group, states that “By joining the AI Impact group alongside Microsoft, Capgemini will contribute to the deployment of artificial intelligence in France.”
“We will be particularly supportive of the training activities in advanced trades in the field of artificial intelligence, in order to discover and develop new talents indispensable to the transformation of the promises of the AI in real-world use.”
AI for everyone
Microsoft’s newly announced AI Skills initiative aims to raise awareness for the need for AI skills in the French job market. The initiative will also make AI opportunities available for everyone.
By working with LinkedIn, Microsoft will create a detailed map of skills and the demand from the AI market, to assess the need and gaps between the supply and demand of AI skills. This, in turn, will help create a clearer picture of France’s AI skillset, which can be used for training and recruiting more people to fill the AI skill gap.
The objective of the AI Skills programme is to train 400,000 people over three years, with the creation of 3,000 new jobs in the French digital ecosystem.
“At the heart of the French digital ecosystem for more than 30 years, we work every day to build a cloud based on trust, and as such, are aware of our responsibility and wish to play a driving role to accompany all parties towards confidence in AI, and its positive impact in society,” Carlo Purassanta states.
“This is the motivation behind our commitment, with our partners, to a generalization of digital skills in France, through our AI skills program, to allow the emergence of new talents in the service of French organizations.”
As part of this movement, Microsoft also announced the establishment of a national training programme centered around digital skills, strengthening its existing commitments such as its recently-opened AI School in Paris (pictured above), which will train 500 AI developers over the next three years.
“One of the main obstacles to the development of AI in France is the lack of skills in this area. While France is a country of engineers and mathematicians, it is lacking the AI professionals needed to develop and integrate these technologies into our everyday lives,” stresses Geraldine Trentesaux, General Manager of FuturSkill, subsidiary of ManpowerGroup.
“It is clear that artificial intelligence is an exceptional opportunity for people away from employment, provided that they are able to access good training. That is the purpose of our commitment today alongside Microsoft, and we’re proud of our presence on their side to allow these people to access new promising AI jobs,” she concludes.
In addition, Microsoft is also working with partners such as the Adecco Group and ManpowerGroup, to strengthen its commitments to self-employed and SME employees, employees of larger companies, IT developers and professionals, and students.
IT professionals can, for example, participate in a programme offering 14 courses, allowing them to develop their skills in deep learning, with the purpose of creating AI solutions. Younger children, on the other hand, can look forward to a multitude of workshops during Hour of Code week.
Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations at Microsoft, states that “Whether through the government’s commitments such as Tech for Planet last December and AI For Humanity today, or initiatives by companies such as Microsoft who want to create the conditions for the emergence of AI champions, more than ever, France is committed to meeting the challenges of our time.”
“It is with pleasure that I welcome today the creation of the AI Impact group and the AI Skills programme in France, both which perfectly embody the mission of Microsoft to give all individuals and organizations in the world the means to achieve their ambitions.”