Underserved communities are universally disadvantaged in their access to resources and high-quality technical education compared to their urban counterparts. Data suggests that between 2000 and 2019, the number of college graduates (ages 25-34) in urban America increased from 26 percent to 39 percent, while in rural America, this number increased only by 6 percent(15 percent to 21 percent). This divide can be attributed to the convergence of resources, talent, and opportunities in urban clusters.
A game-changing tool for intervention – one primed to reshape these metrics for rural America, revitalize their economies, and uplift their people – is AI education. Today, the demand for AI adoption is increasing across the world. In fact, AI’s contribution to the global GDP is expected to soar to $15.7 trillion by 2030.
The technology’s applications span a range of business functions and industries, holding the promise of new efficiencies and automation. Therefore, partaking in opportunities that enable skills in the technology is imperative.
High-quality AI education can be monumental in empowering residents of rural and underserved America. Leveraging AI-powered career and business opportunities can greatly improve socio-economic status and address digital and economic divides.
There are distinct steps needed to successfully implement AI education offerings in schools in underserved America in order to yield a talent pool with highly marketable, in-demand skills.
Building the right foundation with effective courses and curriculum
A strong background in STEM is key to embracing AI – both as a career path and as a tool for business transformation. However, resources are scant in rural communities. According to a 2020 report, only 47 percent of high schools in America teach Computer Science courses. In non-urban areas only 43 percent of high schools in rural areas and 41 percent high schools in towns teaching computer science. In suburban and city areas, this number is 57 percent and 44 percent respectively.
These disparities are even wider while comparing some states. Only 19 percent of high schools in Louisiana offered CS courses – of which more were located in the cities – compared to 89 percent in Rhode Island. However, only an adept STEM student is most suited to pick up advanced AI skills. Therefore, it’s important to kindle interest from a child’s early years all the way to K-12, no matter where they live.
As kids begin to explore smartphones, gaming consoles, and household devices, responding to their curiosities with engaging explanations can help mold their interests into passion. Providing the option to pursue academic courses in pertinent topics such as Python, data analytics, and advanced mathematics can refine students’ skills and help them gain significant exposure in the discipline. According to the 2021 AI Index Report, there is already an uptick in AI-related courses in universities, with an increase of 102.9 percent in the undergraduate level and 41.7 percent in the graduate level within the last four years.