Brazilian government announces creation of AI lab network

The centers will be focused on developing applications focused on cities, manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare.

The Brazilian government has announced it will create a network of eight research facilities focused on artificial intelligence (AI).

The minister of science, technology, innovation and communications, Marcos Pontes, made the announcement during the opening speech of an event focused on public sector innovation in the country's capital, Brasília.

"[The creation of the centers] has been one of the priorities [for the Ministry] in order to improve the country's capabilities around AI," Pontes said.

Specific timescales and details around locations, investment and potential partners are currently being defined and should be announced in a soon-to-be-released tender.

According to the minister, one of the labs will focused on edge AI technology in areas such as cybersecurity and will involve the Brazilian Army.

The other seven centers will work on applied AI. Four of these venues will be working on the technology in line with the national Internet of Things (IoT) plan.

The four core verticals of Brazil's IoT plan are Smart Cities, Healthcare, Agribusiness and Manufacturing. The plan was preceded by a study, funded by Brazil's National Development Bank (BNDES) and carried out by a consortium led by consulting firm McKinsey.

Another AI center within the network announced by minister Pontes will be focusing on the application of artificial intelligence technologies in government.

The Brazilian government has already put the wheels in motion to get the building blocks ready to fully exploit AI in the public sector. For example, it has announced the creation of a single citizen database in October, which will contain a wide range of personal information about the country's population of over 200 million people, to be fully shared across departments.

"What has made a difference throughout history is the ability to work in teams; the ability to reason, plan and think about the future; and our ability to create tools to solve problems and improve quality of life, " Pontes said during his speech.

"We have created magnificent things, we have gone through many transformations - machines, engines, electricity, electronics, computers, airplanes - and we have reached a point now that is very special, which is digital transformation," he added. "We now have [technology] that aids the creation of other tools that help us plan and work in teams."

The announcement of the AI lab network follows the creation of a partnership between IBM and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) to launch a major AI research center in São Paulo next year.

The AI center will be the first Latin American institution of IBM's AI Horizons Network. It will be jointly run by IBM, FAPESP and the University of São Paulo to pursue "a disruptive research program", with the potential to "promote paradigm shifts in AI."