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Educating more than 100,000 Swedes on AI

Monday, May 13, 2019

Sweden has come a long way in terms of digital competence, but still has a lot to learn when it comes to AI. In order to create applications and solutions from research and innovation, a basic understanding of opportunities and possible dangers are needed. AI Innovation, Vinnova and Linköping University now provides Sweden with opportunities for such understanding. Elements of AI is free, open for all and comes in both English, Finnish and, as of May 15, Swedish.

Knowledge about AI should be for all 

AI, or artificial intelligence, is already part of our everyday life. Despite that, very few know what AI actually is and how it works. For Teemu Roos, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Helsinki, knowledge is a democratic matter.

We use AI every day. In almost anything we do, the technology is involved in one way or another. In social media, communications, if you read the news or watch videos on the internet. If people don’t understand how algorithms in social media works, to give an example, then they will not know what they should be critical of. Talk about filter bubbles and attempts to influence national elections will not mean anything. We need to discuss what type of AI is good and which type must be limited. To ensure a democratic discourse, the public needs to know what it is all about.

Several significant investments are being made to increase knowledge about AI in Sweden. The Swedish government recently announced another 20 million SEK for higher education and life long learning within the field of AI.
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The educational platform of Elements of AI has been very successful in Finland, launched in 2018 as a collaboration between the University of Helsinki and the IT company Reaktor. The platform is intended to give the entire population, not just experts, a basic knowledge of what AI is.

Vinnova, AI Innovation of Sweden and Linköping University now makes the Elements of AI available in Swedish for everyone. The aim is to reach 1% of the Swedish population, that’s roughly 100,000 people.

”Folkbildning” – a Nordic paradigm

AI researcher at Linköping University, and part of the EU Commission's expert group for AI, Fredrik Heinz, emphasizes that humans must be at the center of AI development.

– "Folkbildning", free and massive education, is a Nordic paradigm. I hope as many people as possible seize the opportunity to learn more about AI. There is also the possibility of obtaining higher education credits (ECTS) for the course Elements of AI by applying for the online course through - Grunderna i AI, given through Linköping University.

In less than a year, Finland managed to educate one percent of the population, more than fifty-five thousand, and twice as many outside the country's borders, Teemu Roos at the University of Helsinki says:

– The course is not about how to make money using AI or how to build your own AI platform. What we provide is general basic knowledge, an awareness of what the technology is and how it is and can be used.

Reaching one percent of the population is also the goal of the Swedish initiative.
– Sweden is good at digitization, now it is crucial to take the next step, says Fredrik Heinz.

He continues:
AI is something that affects all people, and therefore it is especially important to offer a general education in AI, what it is and how it affects us. It makes it easier for us to understand the consequences of technology and how we can use it in the best way.

Swedish launch event

On May 15 the organizations behind Elements of AI hosted a launch lecture at Stockholm School of Economics. Fredrik Heintz, AI researcher at Linköping University, spoke on what AI really means and how it affects us now and in the future. Annie Lindmark, Innovation Management, and Karin Sevedag Tell, Director of Communications at Vinnova, spoke together on how and why Vinnova will take on the challange to educate a bold number of their staff this year. Jan Smith, Computer Science and Engineering at Chalmers, spoke on AI Competence for Sweden – a National Initiative on Education and Competence Development in Artificial Intelligence.

Elements of AI
The course Elements of AI launched in Swedish on May 15. At already more than two-thousand Swedes have taken the course in English. The same course is given, with the possibility of ECTS, by applying to the course "Grunderna i AI" via The University course is open for late registration even after the standard deadline of April 15.