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Is Alberta ready to take advantage of artificial intelligence economy?

Could technology sector be the next ‘oil boom’ for Alberta?
WATCH: Around the world, it's believed artificial intelligence and technology-based companies will create trillions of dollars in new wealth. But is Alberta prepared to get in the fast lane? Or will it watch from the sidelines? Vinesh Pratap reports.

Sheila Schoepp is a student in the University of Alberta’s Computing Science program. She was drawn to the post-secondary school, in part, because of its artificial intelligence expertise.

“We have a competitive advantage that we will not keep forever if we don’t continue to invest.”

It’s something the dean of the Alberta School of Business wants to capitalize on.

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According to one analysis, AI could create nearly $16 trillion in new wealth worldwide by 2030.

But Joseph Doucet warns if the province isn’t “really strategic” when it comes to AI, “we will continue to muddle along,” adding: “Alberta’s not going to fall into a crater, but we’re going to muddle along in mediocrity.”

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Recently, Doucet and an Edmonton-based tech CEO put forward an op-ed where the two suggest AI could be the next big thing for Alberta, similar to the former oilsands boom.

“Both in terms of the economic impact and also in terms of the collaboration between government, academia and the private sector,” said Cory Janssen, CEO and co-founder of AltaML.

“My first message to my colleagues is not to panic.”

But with post-secondary schools facing cuts in light of the provincial budget, just how much AI can grow is unclear.

“We know what we can do,” Doucet said. “We know what we need to do. We know what our priorities are.”

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“All signs that I’ve seen is that this government is very engaged with figuring out how we actually make technologies like AI work for business,” Janssen added.

Schoepp still has several more years of study to go as she pursues her PhD at the U of A.

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What happens after school is done remains a big unknown.

“I feel like the opportunities are more limited in Alberta, if you compare them to B.C.,” she said.