BelTech 2019: Artificial Intelligence More Accessible Than Ever But Skills Shortage At Highest Level Must Be Addressed

Kathryn Stevenson Corporate

Barriers to using artificial intelligence are now lower than ever but there is a global shortage of people who understand how to select, design and deliver a successful AI project, according to the curators of major technology conference BelTech 2019.

Speaking at the launch of the sixth annual BelTech event, Tom Gray, Group Chief Technology Officer at Kainos, said the theme of this year’s conference is “Intelligent Software” looking at how software can solve the right problems, in the right way.

Mr Gray said that cloud-based platforms provided by the likes of Microsoft, Google and Amazon have created opportunities for both technologists and non-technologists to use machine learning in a meaningful way without major startup, or operational, costs.

However, the rapid development of AI has created a global skills deficit, which means there are not enough people with the understanding to know whether a problem they are facing is a good candidate for AI or the skills to implement the solution. This is also a significant challenge in Northern Ireland, but one which represents an opportunity to create a dynamic local AI industry if government, academia and industry collaborate in a timely fashion.

 “Software engineering remains a core focus of BelTech and, with the rise of AI, we are focused on solving problems in an efficient and ethical way, not on using the technology for the sake of it. We’ll be challenging software professionals to think carefully about how and what they are doing and the wider implications of their work,” said Tom Gray.

“The biggest challenge with AI is whether those who are developing software are being ethically mature in their approach. The barriers to access for AI, and digital platforms generally, are much lower than they were and that creates a need for us all to be more intelligent in our approach to creating software solutions.”

BelTech 2019, which takes place on April 11, is the premier technology event for local software practitioners, business leaders, entrepreneurs and young people aspiring to break into the industry.

The event is curated by Northern Ireland-based digital solutions provider Kainos Software and will feature influential international speakers from the worlds of Software Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, and Design.

The conference is hosted by prominant members of Northern Ireland’s tech community including Aislinn Aislinn McBride (Kainos), David Anderson (Liberty IT) Joe McKavanagh (Kainos), Rachel Gawley (PwC) Austin Tanney (Kainos), Kathryn Harkin (Allstate), and Gemma Crothers (Kainos). Local speakers include Chris Johnston of Adoreboard, Oliver Lennon of Syndeo, with headline speakers set to be confirmed next month.

Sponsors of BelTech 2019 also include AWS, Allstate, Hays and Unosquare.

This year BelTech is also launching a new stream as part of the programme which is aimed at technologists with an interest in the application and growth of technology. The new BelTech Business stream will focus on innovators looking to build technology that will enhance business in Northern Ireland.

Mr Gray said that the theme “Intelligent Software” is an important development in the tech industry at this time and will become increasingly important as AI continues to inform business strategy.

He said: “AI is more accessible than ever with the development of hardware and cloud systems enabling its increased expansion in the marketplace.”

 “We are delighted to be sponsoring and curating BelTech 2019. It is an important date in the diary for those in the sector to take an in-depth look at the burning issues in tech and understand how Northern Ireland can continue to carve out its own identity and expertise in a global industry.”

During the two day conference, speakers from local and global high tech organisations will interact with attendees at a series of workshops and keynote presentations, while 400 post-primary students will have the opportunity to attend inspirational sessions about sustainable digital career paths.

Organisations taking part in BelTech 2019 include All State, Amazon, Liberty IT and PWC. Speakers for BelTech2019 will be announced over the coming weeks.

Conference passes are available for £75 +VAT for a single ticket, with a Tech Tribe ticket for three delegates available at £200 +VAT. Early bird tickets are available until March 31. For more information please visit or find BelTech on Twitter @Beltech2019 or #Beltech2019.


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