Driving Equity: Federal Initiative Expands AI Opportunities

Published On Sun Jun 16 2024
Driving Equity: Federal Initiative Expands AI Opportunities

Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA and Others Join Federal Pilot to Democratize AI Access

Artificial intelligence (AI) has captivated the world — but also spurred fears of industry capture. While AI has the potential to make information, tools, and resources more accessible to a wider range of people, in order to effectively democratize access to information, access to AI systems themselves needs to be democratized. In the United States, AI is advancing rapidly, but opportunities to pursue cutting-edge AI research and new applications are often inaccessible to researchers.

RCAC - Sept. 12 Cyberinfrastructure Symposium

The National AI Research Resource Pilot Program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced an ambitious federal program designed to increase access to AI resources, including tools, data, and computing infrastructure, beyond just the world’s most valuable tech businesses. The pilot program, called the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource (NAIRR), comes after the White House’s executive order mandating that barriers to entry to AI infrastructure be lowered.

The program aims to create an equitable cyberinfrastructure for cutting-edge AI that builds on-ramps for participation for a wide range of researchers and communities. The participation of major tech businesses such as Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Meta, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Intel, IBM, OpenAI, and Anthropic, alongside 11 federal agencies, will provide resources, funding, and tools for the initiative.

Supporting AI Capacity Across the Nation

Katie Antypas, director of the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure at the NSF, highlighted the importance of reaching key communities such as smaller institutions, rural institutions, and those serving underrepresented populations with the NAIRR. These communities often lack the resources to build their own computing or data resources.

Collaboration and Contributions

Public sector contributors to the NAIRR pilot program include the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), NASA, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Tess DeBlanc-Knowles, NSF’s special assistant to the director for artificial intelligence, highlighted the core role of partnerships in the initiative.

Research and Teach AI - AI.gov

Focus Areas of the Pilot Program

The NAIRR pilot will focus on four key areas: NAIRR Open, NAIRR Secure, NAIRR Software, and NAIRR Classroom. NAIRR Open will support open AI research, while NAIRR Secure will provide privacy and security-preserving resources. NAIRR Software will investigate interoperable use of AI tools, and NAIRR Classroom will focus on education and outreach to new communities.

Colleges and universities are increasingly incorporating AI into their lesson plans, signaling a growing interest in AI education and research.