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Grant Helps New Mississippi AI Collaborative Jumpstart Digital Equity Programs

A new Mississippi technology organization is using a $250,000 grant as part of its efforts to reduce inequities in artificial intelligence. The Mississippi AI Collaborative’s leaders believe AI can be a “democratizing” force that could help bridge economic and technology gaps in the poorest state in the country.

“We had the idea of AI Collaborative before the grant. We were trying to figure out, for the programming that we wanted to do, how we were going to fund it,” Mississippi Computer Science Teacher Association Krystal Chapman told the Mississippi Free Press. ”So (the grant) is helping with the pilot for the AI Collaborative.”

The Mississippi AI Collaborative is one of five recipients of the Generative AI Skills Challenge grant. The awardees were selected from nearly 600 applications across 93 countries. The group is the only one in the country to receive the grant. Data.org and Microsoft provide funding and technical assistance to awardees.

The group that formed the collaborative earlier this year includes Chapman, Jackson State University Assistant Professor of Art History Brittany Myburgh, Mississippi Coding Academies Executive Director Bob Buseck, Microsoft TechSpark leader JJ Townsend, BeanPath creator Nashlie Sephus and BeanPath STEAM Programming Director Anik Kurjian. The group says they are focused on ensuring equitable access to AI education, skills and resources for Mississippians. Their grant proposal was a multipart project spanning from K-12 education to small business assistance.

“We had all been collaborating on things like access to STEM education, computer science,” Myburgh told the Mississippi Free Press. “With the development of generative AI, we realized that what was needed to reach as many people with the work that we were already doing was this kind of collaborative approach. So we decided to formally come together to write the big generative AI grant.”

A considerable proportion of the population in Mississippi comes from underrepresented communities. The State Digital Equity Scorecard, a website created by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, gave Mississippi 1.5 out of a possible 6 points during its last ranking in 2021.

Jackson State University Assistant Professor of Art History Dr. Brittany Myburgh helped found the

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