City collaborates with Microsoft on technology hub

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer with Jennifer Byrne of Microsoft
Mayor Greg Fischer with Jennifer Byrne, chief technology officer of Microsoft, at Story Louisville for Friday’s announcement. | Courtesy Theo Edmonds

Louisville Metro and Microsoft officials gathered at Story Louisville on Friday to announce a three-year digital alliance to make the city a technology hub.

According to a memorandum of understanding, the two “share a vision for Louisville as a true regional center for excellence in Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things and data science.”

City officials said the goal of the public-private partnership called the AI Innovation Digital Alliance is to understand the future of work.

Louisville will serve as an urban laboratory with partners including the University of Louisville, Greater Louisville Inc., Jefferson County Public Schools, KentuckianaWorks, local businesses, as well as the Brookings Institution.

“City government will work with education, workforce and business partners to strengthen and diversify the city’s core industries, including health care and manufacturing, which face risk of automation from the progression of AI technology,” according to a news release.

Microsoft will establish an office and will hire four technology fellows, according to Jennifer Byrne, Microsoft’s chief technology officer.

The fellows will work with nonprofit, education, startup, workforce development organizations and with businesses to provide training and support aligned with initiatives focused on AI, IoT and data science, the city said.

“Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, data science — these are all new technology concepts,” Byrne told the crowd at Story. “They are driving growth across our industries. And we really appreciate the ability to partner with the city of Louisville and its many constituents to use that as an opportunity to drive growth for all of us.”

Mayor Fischer noted this was his second big technology announcement this week. On Monday, he introduced an effort called “LouTechWorks,” an initiative to rapidly boost efforts to expand technology talent in Louisville through education and partnerships with nonprofits and employers.

On Friday, he said, the Microsoft alliance would “further propel Louisville and its residents for the economy of the future.”

In the announcement, he noted that “Artificial intelligence is the next frontier in technology, and through this collaboration with Microsoft, we will prepare our workforce for the tech revolution and create economic opportunity, while not losing sight of the need for equity within economic growth.”

According to the agreement, Louisville Metro will host a high-level AI, IoT and data science summit in the fiscal year 2020 and at least six other events supported by Microsoft.

Microsoft will support the local entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem through grants and other resources, the city said. What’s more, the tech giant will partner with preschool through higher education providers on digital literacy training and, with Louisville Metro, will support the Digital Inclusion initiative to close the digital skills gap present in underinvested and disenfranchised communities.

Louisville Metro, Microsoft and the Brookings Institution will collaborate on a comprehensive local strategy focused on the impacts of AI, IoT and data science technologies on communities and develop a playbook for how to prepare other communities for the changing economic landscape, according to the announcement.

Microsoft will support AI-assisted applied research to seek solutions to community challenges such as racial disparities in environmental effects on human health and the cultural measures of trust, hope and belonging that impact employee health and talent retention, the city said.

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