Greg Canfield and Jabo Waggoner to Lead Alabama’s Artificial Intelligence Commission

By Jabo Waggoner & Dan Roberts

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – At the recent, inaugural meeting of the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Associated Technologies, the Commission’s members elected Alabama’s Secretary of Commerce, Greg Canfield, as Chairman and named Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) Vice-Chairman.

Artificial intelligence is a powerful, disruptive technology that has the potential to forever change the way we live our lives and how businesses across Alabama operate.  It’s critical that we understand how AI will bring about these sweeping changes, and this Commission will help us develop insights into what the future has in store for Alabama’s citizens and businesses,” AI Commission Chair Greg Canfield said.

Senator Waggoner’s goal is for Alabama to be on the cutting edge of AI research and job creation in the technology sector.

“We want Alabama to be a leader in AI research, innovation, technology start-ups, and technology jobs.  We believe that we are competitive with other states. The Commission will look at how Alabama is positioned and ready for the opportunities of tomorrow. Those are some of the issues and questions this Commission is going to answer,” Waggoner said. “We will meet with key business groups and different industry sectors to understand the impact of AI and automation on their industries.”

According to Waggoner, the Commission will also examine how schools and universities can develop AI-educational programs, and investigate what privacy safeguards might be needed to protect consumers.

“We want Alabama’s education system in a place where we can equip students with AI-relevant skills through engineering and technology classes and apprenticeship programs,” Waggoner said. “As we promote innovation and educational readiness, we must also protect the privacy rights of citizens, and examine whether existing state laws are effective in regulating these emerging technologies. There’s a lot of work ahead.”

The Commission will be divided up into 5 sub-committees, focused on:

  • state regulations, government oversight, and potential legislative action;
  • education and workforce development;
  • healthcare and medical services;
  • future and evolving industries, economic development, and research;
  • ethics, privacy and security.

The subcommittees will begin their work in mid-October.

Senator Dan Roberts (R-Birmingham) came away from the Commission’s initial meeting impressed at the experience and expertise of the Commission’s members.

“Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning are very complex subjects. Thankfully, I think we have some of the finest minds in our state working on this project. The sub committees that have been established will allow every person on the commission to hone in on their particular areas of expertise,” Roberts commented.

An Alabama CEO said artificial intelligence is on the cusp of transforming every industry.

“Artificial intelligence is rapidly changing every industry, and it is incredibly important for us as a state to think strategically about what that means to our economy,” said Joshua Jones, CEO of Birmingham-based StrategyWise, an AI and data science consulting firm.

“I applaud Senator Waggoner and Secretary Canfield for leading Alabama to be one of the first states to really address these opportunities and changing dynamics systematically. It sends a message to the rest of the U.S. that Alabama is serious about investing in our future, and we’re growing our tech-based ecosystem. For companies that want to leverage all that AI has to offer, we’re going to be prepared with a trained workforce, accommodating public policy, and a strong tech infrastructure,” Jones concluded.

The full Commission plans to schedule additional meetings over the next 7 months. All meetings are open to the public.

The Commission will deliver a report in May 2020 to Governor Ivey and the State Legislature, recommending strategies and policies on how AI and other emerging technologies will be of benefit to Alabama’s economy.

The 25 members of the Commission include:

Greg Canfield – Secretary of Commerce (Chairman)

Marty Redden – Acting Secretary of the Alabama Office of Information Technology

Governor Ivey’s appointees:

Dr. Hari Narayanan—Auburn

Dr. Gerry Dozier—Auburn

Dr. Jeff Carver – UA (Tuscaloosa)

Dr. Curt Carver – UAB

Dr. Alec Yasinac – USA

Dr. John Beck – UAH

Dr. James Cimino – UAB

Melvin Evans – Hand Arendall

Jim McLane – NaphCare

Jacob Kosoff – Regions Bank

Lt. Governor Ainsworth’s appointees:

Joshua Jones – StrategyWise

Dr. Vicki Karolewics – Wallace State Community College

Speaker of the House McCutcheon’s appointees:

Rep. Kirk Hatcher

Rep. Craig Lipscomb

Senate Pro Tem Marsh’s appointees:

Sen. Jabo Waggoner (Vice-Chair)

Sen. Dan Roberts

Non-Voting members appointed by the Governor:

Michael Hardin – Provost & Vice President at Samford University

John Brandt – Southern Company

Leonard Tillman – Balch & Bingham

Mike Rowell – Senior VP & CIO at ALFA Insurance

James Mizell – Senior Account Executive at Microsoft

Jason Asbury – NXTsoft

Dr. Syed Raza – Jefferson State Community College.