Ireland Appoints AI Ambassador to Promote the Tech's Positive Impact

Ireland has created a new role in its Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment focused on promoting the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and driving their development and deployment in Irish enterprises. As the country's first AI Ambassador, Patricia Scanlon will "lead a national conversation on the role of AI in our lives," the announcement stated, "emphasizing Ireland's commitment to an ethical approach to the use of the technology, and in particular its adoption by enterprise."

Scanlon is a software engineer with 20 years of experience in speech recognition technology and machine learning systems. In 2013 she founded SoapBox Labs, a provider of speech recognition technology designed to accurately understand the varied voices of children, including those with speech and hearing impairments. Her 2019 TEDx Talk, "How Technology Transforms a Child's Reading Journey," is considered a must-see for professionals in the voice, education, media, and kids' entertainment industries.

She was appointed to the new role by Ireland's Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital, and Company Regulation, Robert Troy. "As an AI developer, Dr Scanlon has used this powerful technology to help children to learn," Troy said in a statement. "She will draw on her experience and expertise as an Irish SME in the field to help to demystify artificial intelligence for people and for small businesses who may be hesitant to engage with AI."

AI technologies "have the power to deliver an enormous and positive impact for both businesses and society, once the benefits and potential risks are understood," Scanlon has said.

"I see a clear opportunity for Ireland to become a leader in advocating for and adopting an ethical approach to AI, that puts humans first," she said. "In my new role, I look forward to working to demystify AI and promoting the positive impacts it can have in areas such as health, agriculture, transport and education. I also am excited to hear the views of young people about the role they believe AI should have in shaping their futures and the future of Ireland in the coming decades."

Last year, Ireland unveiled a national AI strategy, dubbed "AI – Here for Good," focused on driving adoption of AI in Irish enterprise and making Ireland an international leader in "using AI to the benefit of our population, through a people-centered, ethical approach to AI development, adoption and use." Appointing an AI Ambassador was one of the first objectives of the strategy.

Scanlon takes up her appointment immediately and will work with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment on a schedule of engagements in her new role, which includes membership in the Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum (EDAF).

Another objective of Ireland's national AI strategy is to "open a conversation with children and young people about AI." Consequently, Scanlon will also be involved with the upcoming National Youth Assembly on AI, which takes place in September 2022. The event aims to "engage with young people on their attitudes, awareness and fears in relation to AI, as well as to promote careers in technology."

The City of Dublin has a reputations as a technology hub. According to the World Atlas, more than 200 Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies have headquarters there. Apple, Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon, LinkedIn, Twitter, PayPal, and Microsoft are among the big-name tech companies with a presence in Ireland. The country's software sector generates more than 16 billion euros annually, employs about 20,000 people, and it's the second-largest exporter of software in the world.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at