Brunei joins Teens in AI programme

Lyna Mohamad

Practical exposure on artificial intelligence (AI) at an early age is important as most AI systems are not yet designed to empower young people to make informed decisions on how to engage with them, said Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) Chief Executive Officer Javed Ahmad.

He said the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently stated that youth across the globe will be most impacted by the growth of AI technologies and applications.

The future of work globally – and more so in Brunei Darussalam – will be determined by a population that is at ease with new technology and is able to find innovative solutions to societal challenges, be it in life, livelihood, health or well-being, said the CEO.

Javed made these comments ahead of the launch of the first Teens in AI programme in Southeast Asia, which will kick off virtually with the AI For Good Hackathon in Brunei Darussalam today.

The event is a collaborative effort between DARe, Brunei Shell Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd (BSP), Baiduri Bank Berhad, Brunei Shell Marketing Co Sdn Bhd (BSM), Authority for Info-Communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) and Dynamik Technologies Sdn Bhd, with support from the Science Technology, Environment Partnership (STEP) Centre of the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Jerudong International School (JIS).

Spanning eight days, the pilot hackathon will be conducted virtually through platforms such as YouTube, Zoom and Discord where the students will tune into workshops and talks by industry experts as well as sessions by mentors in business, design thinking and technology.

Fifty-three students between 14 and 16 from public schools and JIS will participate in the event under the guidance of 20 teachers and 36 mentors from various industries.

The aim of the Teens in AI programme is to train and skill more than 500 teens in public and private secondary students, some 50 public and private secondary school teachers and over 100 mentors made up of local tech start-up founders, unemployed IT graduates and skilled corporate employees. PHOTO: DARE

It will culminate with a demo day on September 19 where the youngsters will pitch their ideas to a panel of industry-leading executives at the Design and Technology Building in Anggerek Desa Technology Park.

The programme’s objective is to provide a platform to shape the skills and knowledge of teens as part of Brunei Darussalam’s Industry 4.0 aspirations which envision a sustainable collaborative start-up ecosystem that supports innovation and growth by developing and utilising digital and leadership skills in the local youth.

The programme is also geared towards developing new technology skills in the areas of AI and programming to prepare teens for long-term careers in jobs of the future and equip them with skills that will make them globally marketable.

Furthermore, it will provide an opportunity to develop high-tech businesses to support His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s vision to explore areas, such as AI, as part of Brunei Darussalam’s Industry 4.0 initiative.

The First Teens in AI programme is aimed at putting Brunei on the global innovation map as a driver for AI development in youth.

After the virtual AI For Good Hackathon, the programme will continue in 2021 with a cross-school event, involving 500 students, and conclude with a final hackathon in which the top two teams of each school will create solutions to problems both identified by the local community and aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

By the end of the programme, the expected target is to train and skill more than 500 teens in public and private secondary students, some 50 public and private secondary school teachers and over 100 mentors made up of local tech start-up founders, unemployed IT graduates and skilled corporate employees.

BSP Managing Director Agnete Johnsgaard-Lewis shared that Industrial Revolution 4.0 has the potential to provide new and exciting opportunities for Brunei.

As a pioneer in innovative technologies, BSP has increasingly moved towards digital technology in the past few years, she added.

“These can provide improved efficiency and effectiveness in the workplace as we apply new ways of working in the process of developing powerful new capabilities, from smarter exploration, leaner hydrocarbon development and safer operations.”

Along with mentors from BSP, the experts are excited to share knowledge and expertise to develop local capabilities and skillsets by elevating their understanding in the problem-solving capabilities of AI, said Johnsgaard-Lewis.

Teens in AI was initiated by Elena Sinel, founder and CEO of Teens In AI and Acorn Aspirations launched at the United Nations AI For Good Global Summit.

While carrying the mission of increasing diversity and inclusion in AI and empowering young people to solve real-world problems through AI, the vision is for AI to be developed by a diverse group of thinkers and doers advancing AI for humanity’s benefit.

Sinel pointed out that the Teens in AI is about inspiring agency in young people from diverse backgrounds to change the world using it and machine learning for social good.

The first-of-its-kind youth hackathon in Brunei is made possible by a partnership between numerous stakeholders while its success and continuity require local educators, government, business and tech ecosystem to support it wholeheartedly, she said.

“It is vital that young people from all backgrounds have a chance to participate in the programme,” the CEO said.

“The real societal impact can only be achieved when technology that powers the world is representative of the diverse societal makeup of the world.”

She added, “This is exactly what Teens in AI is attempting to achieve, which is to offer opportunities to all young people, irrespective of their gender or background, to express their voice through technology for social good.”

Meanwhile, she said, “we are constantly on the lookout for like-minded partners who will work with us to grow this community of enterprising young people who want to shape the future of the world to create one that is inclusive, sustainable and critical to long-term global success”.

Sinel believes that the training of locals is a key objective of the programme as it ensures the continuity of the programme and equips them with talents and skills that can be utilised to build a future-ready workforce.

As such, Acorn Aspirations is working with local delivery partner InTurn Co, a start-up incubated in iCentre, to run Teens in AI through partnerships and support of sponsors in Brunei.

BSP Digitalisation Manager and Technology Lead Sofiah Umar, who will be part of the panel of judges for the AI For Good Hackathon, said she is excited to see the digital solutions that the first participants will come up with.

“Building a future-ready workforce is an essential part of BSP’s digital transformation journey and is crucial to supporting the country’s vision of being a Smart Nation,” Sofiah said. “I wish all participants an enriching experience and I look forward to demo day and witness our bright young minds pitch their ideas.”