Finland offers crash course in artificial intelligence to all EU citizens

Finland offers crash course in artificial intelligence to all EU citizens

18. December 2019 0 By Horst Buchwald

Finland offers crash course in artificial intelligence to all EU citizens

HELSINKI, 18.12.2019

Finland offers all citizens of the European Union a technical Christmas present – a free online course in artificial intelligence in their mother tongue. This was announced yesterday by a spokesman for the Finnish government.

The technically savvy Nordic nation, led by 34-year-old Prime Minister Sanna Marin, marks the end of its rotating EU presidency at the end of the year with a very ambitious goal. Instead of distributing the usual bindings and scarves to EU officials and journalists, the Finnish government has chosen to inform 1% of EU citizens or about 5 million people about AI in an online basic course by the end of 2021. It cooperates with the University of Helsinki, Finland’s largest and oldest academic institution, and the Finnish technology consultancy Reaktor.

Teemu Roos, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Helsinki, described the nearly $2 million project as “a civic course in AI” to help EU citizens cope with the ever-increasing digitisation of society and the opportunities offered by AI in the labour market.

The course covers elementary AI concepts in a practical way and does not go into deeper concepts such as coding, he said. “We have enormous potential in Europe, but what we lack is investment in AIs,” Roos said, adding that the continent is facing tough AI competition from digital giants like China and the United States.

The initiative is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Economy and Employment, and officials said the course is intended for all EU citizens regardless of age, education or occupation.

Since its launch in Finland in 2018, The Elements of AI has been phenomenally successful – the most popular course ever offered at Helsinki University, with roots dating back to 1640 – with more than 220,000 students from over 110 countries using it online so far, Roos said.

A quarter of those enrolled so far are aged 45 and over, and about 40% are women. The proportion of women among Finnish participants is almost 60% – a remarkable figure in the male-dominated technology sector.

The multi-module online course is expected to be completed in about six weeks full-time – or up to six months in an easier schedule – and is currently available in Finnish, English, Swedish and Estonian. Together with the Rector and local EU partners, the University will translate them into the remaining 20 official EU languages over the next two years.

Megan Schaible, COO of Rector Education, said at the presentation of the project in Brussels last week that “the company has decided to merge with the Finnish university to prove that the AI should not be in the hands of some elite coders”.

Graduates will be provided with an official diploma from Helsinki University, and Roos said many EU universities are likely to award credits for attending the course so students can include it in their curriculum.

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