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Nao robot. Photo: Omnia

Omnia AI Lab — an accelerator of a digitally equal community

Artificial intelligence is becoming part of the fabric of our daily lives. But do we understand what AI is and does — you know, in real life? Do we have clear answers to questions like: What will be the role of AI in society? How will AI affect our day-to-day living? Omnia AI Lab, the City of Espoo's adult education initiative, is here to do just that: Put the every day into artificial intelligence.

By offering talks, courses and projects, Omnia AI Lab welcomes all adults to learn and update their know-how in AI and robotics — whoever you are, whatever your expertise. AI Lab is located at Omina, the multidisciplinary education centre in Espoo.

"Omnia AI Lab is a response to this societal challenge of social inclusion and digital equality."

Digital equality is everyone's right

Equality is a fundamental right — also in digital matters. The City of Espoo uses technology to enable its citizens to learn new skills to give them purpose, enjoyment and improve their lives. Meanwhile, Finland's Artificial Intelligence Programme 2019 wants to ensure that everyone has the skills needed to participate in society in the AI age.

"Exclusion from an increasingly digitised society is a major threat, especially to senior citizens whose basic digital skills are already less developed than in the rest of society. Omnia AI Lab is a response to this societal challenge of social inclusion and digital equality," Sampo Suihko, the Director-General of Omnia, says.

AI Lab is determined to be a forerunner in applied artificial intelligence by providing adults' needed civic skills. AI Lab students learn by doing, creating and innovating, instead of taking part in traditional courses.

"Omnia AI Lab currently trains the world's first 100 senior citizens as artificial intelligence mentors to share their AI knowledge. We also arrange joint product development projects where seniors develop AI-supported mobile applications for their own needs together with experts from Aalto University and companies," Suihko continues.

After completing an AI Lab project, an AI mentor goes into their community and utilises the developed solutions by helping their peers and, for example, small children taking their first steps in the learning path to the AI-powered society. 

Making tech work for people by putting it in their hands ensures that digitalisation will not become an end in itself. It'll become a means to develop ourselves, innovate, and improve the community's quality of living.

"We have achieved very good results with the model where participants are heavily involved throughout the process — from design and innovation to development and deployment," Suihko enthuses.

Espoo's innovation ecosystem helps you to innovate

Omnia AI Lab exemplifies how communities and public and private companies come together to create new things in Espoo's innovation ecosystem.

"Omnia AI Lab trains the world's first 100 senior citizens as artificial intelligence mentors to share their AI knowledge."

"Espoo offers an inspiring forum that activates citizens to participate. You get the relevant information, help in starting your initiative and inspiration to create something new," says Suihko.

From now on, the digitalisation of societies is only going to pick up the pace. Unless we take action, it'll become more challenging to make sure that no citizens are left behind in the development. 

With educators like Omnia AI Lab, Espoo is well on its way to providing an equal digital society.

"I think in ten years, the 'society as a service' development going on in Aalto University's campus will also be present in other parts of Espoo. Public and private services will function seamlessly at the same location. Customer insights will, therefore, determine how the city develops. People are an invaluable resource," Suihko concludes.

Hero image: Omnia