Omnia AI Lab – accelerator of a digitally equal community in Espoo

Omnia AI Lab – accelerator of a digitally equal community

We’ve all heard the stories about killer AI robots. But do we know what artificial intelligence actually is and does – you know, in real life. Do we have clear answers to questions like: what will be the role of artificial intelligence in society, and how will AI affect our day-to-day living? Omnia AI Lab, an Espoo city adult education initiative at the multidisciplinary education centre Omina, is here to do just that: put the everyday into artificial intelligence.

AI will become part of the fabric of our daily lives in the near future. It will become increasingly important to handle the interaction between man and machine as well as to know how to use automated services. 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.

Digital equality is everyone’s right

Equality is a basic right – also in digital matters. The city of Espoo uses technology to enable its citizens to learn new skills. Skills that will give them purpose, enjoyment and improve their lives. Meanwhile, Finland as a whole, as stated in Finland’s interim report of the artificial intelligence programme, wants to ensure that everyone has the basic skills to participate in society in the age of AI.

“Exclusion from an increasingly digitized 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 the needed civic skills for adults. Learning by doing, creating and innovating, instead of taking part in traditional courses, is how skills are taught at the Lab.

“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 mentors can go into their community and utilize the developed solutions by helping their peers and, for example, small children – who are taking their first steps in the learning path to the AI-powered society. By putting technology at the hands of and to work for people ensures that digitalisation will not become an end in itself but a means to develop ourselves, to innovate and to improve the quality of life in the community.

“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 Innovation Garden helps you innovate

Omnia AI Lab is a perfect example of how things are done in the Espoo Innovation Garden ecosystem, where communities as well as public and private companies come together to create new things.

“Espoo Innovation Garden is 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, digitalisation is only going to pick up pace. Unless actions are taken, it will become increasingly difficult to make sure that no citizen is left behind in the development. With educators like Omnia AI Lab, Espoo is well on its way in ensuring an equal digital society.

“I think in ten years’ time, 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.

Read more about Omnia AI Lab (in Finnish).