UK government thinks AI sector isn’t diverse enough

A few million quid is being thrown at artificial intelligence and data science conversion degrees, with people from underrepresented groups eligible for scholarships.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had a rummage around the back of the sofa and came up with £13.5 million that is wants to spend on encouraging people to take ‘conversion degrees’ specialising in AI and data science. This seems to mean you already need a degree to qualify, but have decided the smart money is in AI.

The social engineering doesn’t stop there, however, with a significant chunk of that cash set aside to provide 1,000 scholarships for ‘under-represented groups… including women and people from minority ethnic backgrounds, or lower socio-economic backgrounds.’ Another 5 million quid is being set aside to encourage companies to come up with better online learning tools.

“Creating a more diverse future workforce will help with the design of new technology, including the fair and accurate development of algorithms, and tackle some of the greatest social challenges of our time – from protecting our environment, to transforming the way we live and work, and saving lives through diagnosing diseases earlier,” the announcement says.

“The UK has a long standing reputation for innovation, world-leading academic institutions and a business friendly environment and everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to build a successful career in our world-leading tech sector,” said Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright. “Through these new AI and Data Conversion courses and our modern Industrial Strategy, we are committed to working with the tech sector and academia to develop and maintain the best AI workforce in the world.”

Loads of other people were quoted as saying almost exactly the same thing. Try as it might the government couldn’t find a single voice of dissent. Apparently only 19 percent of UK tech workers are women, which is bad. No data was offered regarding ethnicity or socio-economic grouping. This initiative joins a Byzantine web of other schemes the government has in place to help people acquire some useful vocational skills. The first round of funding will be made available in September.

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