There used to be a time when artificial intelligence and machine learning were reserved for science fiction.

While those concepts may be hard to imagine for many still today, researchers like those at the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII) and other such start-ups have been transforming the province into a leader in data-driven innovation.

Mark Diner, Director, Alberta Data Institute

But how do we support these innovations to make sure we stay that way? That's a question that Mark Diner, Director of the Alberta Data Institute, has been hard at work trying to solve.

"We're not going to retain this international competitive advantage for very long if we don't continue to invest not just financially but leverage our effort and work as well," Diner said. "It is an Alberta advantage, but it won't be if we don't continue to support that."

As a program within Alberta Innovates, the Alberta Data Institute is being tasked with aligning with the AI strategic priority of data innovation, assist companies and not for profits, and help bridge the gap to implementation of new technologies.

Essentially, Diner and his team are being asked to solve the problems of tomorrow today.

Keeping data private

An example comes in the form of data privacy: an issue that continues to make headlines today and something the Alberta Data Institute takes very seriously.

Anything from client information, to commercial secrets and even security procedures, can become easy targets if the industry doesn't prepare for it.

"We can't make thing open and available for us if we haven't solved the other side of the equation, which is the protection of people's personal information," Diner said.

"There are many technical and legal instruments to do that, and it just takes time and attention to make sure that's in place."

"Many companies tend not to think about that. They tend just to solve problems. Which is cool, but you need to also understand that with that information there comes a responsibility."

The future of Alberta data innovation

As Alberta's digital industries continue to grow and evolve, it's not going to be easy to predict and address their needs.

But after spending two decades in information management and information technology in various roles with the Government of Alberta, Mark Diner believes he's ready to tackle the challenge.

"As we build the program out we will have some prototypes and some pilot projects help us learn and understand where to go next," Diner said. "We're not just going to create documents; we're going to deliver projects, opportunities and outcomes over the next year as we build the Alberta Data Institute."