Prg.ai is a unique non-governmental organisation with an ambitious goal: to transform Prague into an AI hub of European significance. The association strives to bring together government organisations, universities, companies, investors, and the public to boost the research and application of technologies based on artificial intelligence. Such innovative tools can simplify our work, help us in everyday activities, and bring new opportunities for scientists, businesses, and all citizens of the Czech Republic.
Since its establishment in 2019, prg.ai has launched several projects focused on increasing the number of AI professionals in Prague, either by motivating Czechs to study the field on Czech universities and stay in Prague afterwards or by creating a welcoming environment for expats. They also support the implementation of AI into traditional industrial sectors, help incubate startups for talented newcomers, and promote Czech AI success stories. Lenka Kučerová, the director of prg.ai, told us more about the organisation’s goals and ambitions.
As prg.ai states in its manifest, it aims to “transform Prague into an AI hub of European significance”. How did the idea first come about, and what do you do to achieve it?
In 2018, a group of Prague scientists went to Canada, which is one of the top countries when it comes to the research and application of artificial intelligence. And they realised the AI ecosystem in Prague is comparable to the one in Montreal, be it the size of the talent pool or the product maturity of local startups. So they decided to join forces and — with the financial backing of the City of Prague — established prg.ai, whose mission is to build a platform upon which the Prague AI scene will be able to enter the ranks of global leaders in artificial intelligence.
What are you currently working on? Will any of your projects directly impact the lives of Prague citizens?
While we focus on the ecosystem as a whole, I must admit education has been at the centre of our attention so far. In 2019, we launched prg.ai Minor, a university programme that brings together the best subjects from the Czech Technical University and Charles University and allows students to get a deep understanding of AI, from coding to ethics. However, we realise that we must inspire students for science from an early age, so in cooperation with ML College and five pilot secondary schools in Prague, we’re preparing a curriculum called AI academy, which is to be launched in autumn 2021. Thanks to the City of Prague, the resulting materials will be available to students and teachers across Czechia.
What are prg.ai’s biggest accomplishments so far?
This spring, we’re launching the Czech version of Elements of AI, a free online course for the public that aims to give people basic proficiency in artificial intelligence. It answers questions like what’s AI, how it will impact my life and work, but even delves into the philosophy of artificial intelligence. Besides that, we publish our monthly newsletter where people can find free events and sources in Czech that touch on AI. And last but not least, we’re launching our new website soon with a section dedicated to the public where they’ll find educational materials, insightful interviews, and thought-provoking articles on a regular basis.
Let’s say a foreign AI enthusiast would be interested in coming to Prague to study or work in this field. How would prg.ai support them?
I don’t mean to boast, but I’m delighted that prg.ai has become a key information and contact broker on the Prague AI scene, which is only natural, given our founders and industry members comprise first-class vendors and product companies. We help access know-how, facilitate relationships, and find opportunities both in academia and business and are more than happy to assist anyone keen to explore or contribute to the local ecosystem. Attracting international researchers is crucial to realising our vision, and we strive to make their stay with us as pleasant as possible. We put together a guidebook to help them navigate through Prague and recently started a multi-discipline research community for them to learn, share, and network. For obvious reasons, it’s currently online, and we cannot wait to bring it to the offline world as soon as the situation permits.
What are your plans for 2021?
The launch of Elements of AI is our top priority at the moment since the course has the potential to improve the literacy of many citizens of our country and motivate young people to take up science. We’ll also carry on building bridges between academia and the industrial sphere. Providing assistance to startups is an on-going process, too. And apart from that, our large task this year is to get connected with initiatives similar to prg.ai abroad and further support our local friends and partners such as brno.ai or CzechInvest.