To date there has been little research conducted across Canada on the ways artificial intelligence (AI) and automated decision making (ADM) systems are publicly funded. The ways in which entities procure, build, and/or use AI and ADM products, especially those that can (and often do) discriminate and cause harm to women and people of colour, are opaque. This initial scoping research aims to uncover these organizational black boxes. That is, to examine structural governance mechanisms that affect the AI ecosystem — public sector financial flows, public procurement practices, and corporate transparency — and those who actively participate and govern it. Beyond the status quo framing and discourse of the innovation economy, the research focuses on AI’s political and social implications to provide a societal lens of its influence and governance. The next phase of the research will extend to the political economy of AI and its global impact.
The research aims to inform the public on how power is convened and maintained in the AI ecosystem. The research will identify and examine both public and private entities in the AI ecosystem in the hopes that it will be made more transparent and accountable to the public. In turn, the public can question how public policy decisions in relation to AI and ADM systems are made, and how they can be made more inclusive and equitable, especially to the communities on the margins of current AI governance structures. Overall, the research aims to advance public and open knowledge for the benefit of more inclusive, public interest technology. Community organizations, nonprofit technology intermediaries, and policymakers can use research outputs to advocate for transparency and accountability in AI and ADM systems. This includes greater availability and access to public sector funding data, and improved public consultation, engagement, and participation processes.