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This KSA campaign aims to tackle gender bias in AI

The Dear AI hackathon aims to combat gender bias and underrepresentation of women, Saudi and Arab people in AI software.

This KSA campaign aims to tackle gender bias in AI
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Artificial intelligence has boundless potential to offer solutions around bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. However, though AI appears neutral, since it uses data created by people as a starting point, it also internalizes the same bias we have based on age, gender, or race. 

Taking on this challenge is Dear AI, a campaign and hackathon launched by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) to tackle gender bias and the underrepresentation of women, Saudi and Arab people in AI software. 

According to its release, a recent KAUST search of a popular AI imaging software tool revealed an average of 1% of women  using  prompts “image entrepreneur”’ “imagine inventor,” and “imaging software engineer”, further showcasing the biases in neural networks. 

This is a stark contrast when globally, women represent one in three early-stage entrepreneurs and 20% of computer scientists, and in KSA alone, 45% of startups are owned by women. The campaign, therefore, seeks to reveal accurate representations of demographics from KAUST, Saudi Arabia, and beyond. 

Gender bias is a known downside of AI systems, especially regarding women of color, said KAUST Professor of Computer Science Jürgen Schmidhuber, Director of the KAUST AI Initiative. “One solution is to retrain the algorithms on appropriately selected unbiased data sets. Creating such sets, however, is a non-trivial task,” he explained. 

“Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the fact that Saudi women are turning to tech as a viable career path, and 47% of the graduates in our AI academy program are women. that by itself may move the needle in this space: more women working in AI may help to generate new and less biased data sets as a natural by-product of their work.”

The hackathon will be hosted throughout the summer, welcoming AI and machine learning students and scientists from Saudi Arabia and across the world to alleviate the effects of gender bias. Participants will review demographic dataset categories, labels used, and modeling features, and create new datasets for training.

As Saudi women continue to make their mark in STEM fields, KAUST aims to offer opportunities for women in the kingdom. The university is the first mixed-gender university in the country. It boasts a female student body population of 39%, and 47% of female graduates on its AI extension courses by the KAUST Academy.

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