Good practices

Sustainable AI in Business

@ Jacob Lund - stock.adobe.com
@ Jacob Lund - stock.adobe.com

‘Sustainable AI in Business’ is a free online course on the societal impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It has been recently launched to help companies sustainably implement AI and broaden their employees’ understanding of various implications of this emerging technology.

Created by Agoria, the Belgian federation of tech enterprises, and its partners, the ’Sustainable AI in Business’ course targets small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who want to augment their competencies to make AI projects, services, and products more sustainable. The training offers general insight into various non-technical aspects of AI (such as organisational, human, legal and ethical) that are fundamental to understand when successfully adopting AI applications and making them aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

As highlighted by Julie de Bergeyck, AI Project Leader at Agoria, “the increasing use of AI in the business world evokes curiosity and enthusiasm among many people, but not without a little uncertainty”. It is still not quite clear what impact AI has on jobs and work organisation or what ethical and legal aspects should be considered when using AI. 'The ‘Sustainable AI in Business’ course is designed for anyone who is struggling with these questions and is packed with advice from experts and testimonies from entrepreneurs', explains Julie.

“The ‘Sustainable AI in Business’ course is designed for anyone who is struggling with these questions and is packed with advice from experts and testimonies from entrepreneurs”

The course was designed 'by companies for companies'. To capture the target audience’s needs and build up the best user experience, small and large companies’ representatives, and various research experts (Belgian and EU-related) were interviewed and engaged in the training preparation phase. Overall, more than 40 partners participated in the course development and designing. They were asked to provide input on the desired course format and content.

As a result, ‘Sustainable AI in Business’ applies a user-friendly and innovative learning approach. The 1.5-hour training is available in three languages - Dutch, French, and English - and does not require any prior knowledge of AI or IT. It consists of five chapters (HR, Legal, Sustainability Innovation, Sales/Customers) and features about 15 short videos, complemented with interactive texts and quizzes. To maximise the understandability and readability of the texts, technical or theoretical terms or abbreviations have been avoided and the main focus is brought on a 'plain' business language. The selected format makes the course simple and concise but also playful and dynamic. End-users describe the course as 'enlightening', 'refreshing', and as “the first perfect step to understanding how to implement AI”.

At the very end of the course, end-users are not only asked for feedback but also highly encouraged to keep learning through an insightful 'toolkit'. This toolbox provides a summary of the key lessons learned, an overview of other relevant tools and articles, and recommendations for related workshops and events within Agoria.

Since March 2021, ‘Sustainable AI in Business’ has been followed by around 350 learners. In the future, Agoria aims to attain 1000 to 2000 learners per year with a graduation rate of 25%. According to Agoria’s representatives, the biggest challenge is currently to make the training 'spread the world' and motivate employers and employees, directly or indirectly interested in AI, to start the training.

It is hoped that subsequently, the training will become as successful as the ‘Ai in Business’ course. This 4-hours online training was launched by the same association in 2019 and has over 5000 learners today. It addresses such questions as what is AI and what does this technology represent for companies.