For Kate Arthur, Founder and CEO of Kids Code Jeunesse (KCJ), AI is integral part of her mission. KCJ is currently working on projects to educate children about AI and to empower teachers to bring AI into the curriculum.
“We recently launched the Algorithm Literacy Project, a campaign to educate young people about how algorithms work and how they influence our digital lives,” she says. KCJ is working in partnership with CCUNESCO, and the project is also supported by Microsoft Canada and RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch.
Kate hopes that by the time 2030 comes along and today’s kids are adults, they will have the power to roll out the future that they want to see.
“AI has the ability to solve massive global problems, from climate change to health, and it’s our kids who need to be equipped with the tools and skills to solve them,” she says.
While education is important, Kate understands that without a strong level of engagement and inspiration, students may be tempted to drop out – just as she did when she was 17.
“I didn’t see the relevance,” she recalls. “Sitting at a desk, being lectured at, was not my idea of inspiration!”
Kate did go back when she figured out what she wanted to learn, studying English Literature at Concordia University. She says she is passionate about learning but wants to enjoy it and see purpose in the process, and she is now studying for her Executive MBA at McGill-HEC Montréal.
“I believe learning needs to be fun and relevant for kids,” she says. “We create easy-to-absorb projects that both boys and girls will engage and relate to.”
Kate sees education as the key to demystifying misguided fears and misconceptions about AI. She says it is not inherently good or bad but recognizes that it is a tool that reflects the biases and priorities of its makers.
“It's not magic,” she says. “It's very important that, as a society, we educate people on how to work with artificial intelligence systems. How they already engage with and profit from these AI systems, and how to not be scared of it, but to really understand the nuts and bolts of how it works.”
Mentorship is also important to one’s career path. Kate says she was fortunate to have a lot of strong mentors, including an entrepreneurial mother and grandmother. Her three sisters have also proven to be an outstanding support network.
“I have learned how to enjoy risk,” she says.
But not all risks are worth taking. When she left a job to have her third child, one of her mentors urged her to keep a career title. She told Kate that she had left the workforce completely for 15 years to raise her own children and learned that it was very difficult to come back.
“The role model is really important and especially having female role models for the younger generation,” Kate says. “I encourage young female entrepreneurs and women in tech to mentor the younger students and young children. I’m now 46, I’m not starting out in my career anymore, but I do mentor the next generation of women in business. I feel it’s sort of my duty to help support women coming into the entrepreneurial world, which is a whole new, different experience. And I ask these young women to give back to the generation behind them, so young girls see the importance of STEM and the power of STEM, and not be afraid of it.”