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Québec lays the groundwork for a world observatory on the social impacts of artificial intelligence and digital technologies

On March 27, the Fonds de recherche du Québec, in partnership with Université de Montréal, held a workshop at Palais des congrès de Montréal on a project to create a world observatory on the social impacts of artificial intelligence (AI) and digital technologies. Nearly one hundred people from all of Québec’s universities were in attendance, along with representatives from government departments, civil society organizations and the AI sector.

According to workshop organizers, all activity sectors will be increasingly affected by artificial intelligence. While it holds extraordinary potential to foster economic development and improve living conditions, AI also raises concerns with regard to employment, security, democracy, ethics and the professional, social and private spheres of our lives; hence the idea to create an observatory on these social issues.

The presentations by experts and discussions held as part of the break-out and plenary sessions considered the observatory’s mandate and potential model, governance mode, funding and international component, as well as the sectors and issues the observatory should primarily focus on. The activity was held in follow up to the Forum on the Socially Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence, which was organized in November 2017 in Montréal, and builds on the drafting of the Montréal Declaration for a Responsible Development of AI.

Conducted over the coming months, the work to establish the observatory will account for the new international AI organization announced in the recent budget tabled by the Québec government and for which Montréal International will receive $5M in funding to facilitate its implementation.


“In addition to serving as a major international hub for AI research, Québec also distinguishes itself by its ethical and social concern with respect to the development and application of advancements in the field. The observatory project demonstrates the leadership role that Québec intends to take on in the socially responsible development of AI. The extensive exchanges at the workshop clearly confirm the need to create an observatory that will involve all social stakeholders."

– Rémi Quirion, chief scientist of Québec

“To ensure that the development of artificial intelligence makes a positive contribution to society, it must necessarily be supported by the reflections of researchers in the humanities and social sciences. In Québec, this sector is as rich as the field of artificial intelligence, and the observatory project will bring the two talent pools together to generate knowledge and know-how that will instill confidence in the future.”

– Marie-Josée Hébert, vice-rector of Research, Discovery, Creation and Innovation, Université de Montréal and member of the steering committee to create a research cluster in artificial intelligence

About the Fonds de recherche du Québec

Reporting to the Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation, the Fonds de recherche du Québec strive to ensuring the strategic and coherent development as well as the financial support of Québec research, establish the necessary partnerships to carry out their mission, and promote and support knowledge mobilization.

About Université de Montréal

Université de Montréal and its two affiliated schools, École Polytechnique (engineering) and HEC Montréal (business), are amongst the world's top universities, according to international rankings. Founded in 1878, the campus today has over 67,000 students and 2,700 professors, making Université de Montréal the second largest university in Canada. Its students are drawn to the university by its deep roots in cosmopolitan Montreal and in consideration of its tenacious dedication to its international mission.


Benoit Sévigny
Director, Communications and Knowledge Mobilization
Fonds de recherche du Québec
514 864-1619

Anne-Marie Savoie
Coordination of the activities of the Declaration, partnership and communication, Vice-Rectorate of Research, Discovery, Creation and Innovation
Université de Montréal
514 343-6111 #29669