JANS – The Bean Path is piloting the AI Agency, a new initiative to help bridge the Artificial Intelligence (AI) divide for small businesses throughout the Metro Jackson community. The AI Agency provides affordable and tailored AI services and consultation to local businesses, helping to enhance their online presence, sales funnel, marketing, and customer engagement.
In partnership with Jackson State University’s Art Department, Innovation Center and College of Business, the AI Agency cultivates a self-sustaining AI ecosystem that blends education and employment. The project offers students hands-on experience in providing AI solutions to real-world business challenges, supporting them to develop a clear career path and gain essential experience for future employment.
“The AI Agency is just another way The Bean Path is creating a tech ecosystem through community centered programming, exposing and demystifying technology, while empowering our community to learn, explore, and prepare for jobs within STEAM and for the future,” said Dr. Nashlie Sephus, founder of The Bean Path.
Services include digital and technology needs assessments, cloud services integration, technical assistance, website development, and revamping. AI trained university students focus on helping local non-profit organizations and small businesses leverage AI and technology for optimal success.
The AI Agency is funded through a $250,000 grant awarded to the Mississippi AI Collaborative (MAIC), a strategic partnership between The Bean Path, JSU, Mississippi Coding Academy, and the Mississippi Chapter of the Computer Science Teacher Association (MS CSTA).
MAIC represents North America and is one of five organizations from nearly 600 applications across 93 countries selected in the Generative AI Skills Challenge, an initiative of Microsoft and data.org. The Challenge sought fair and community-led integration in low- and middle-income countries and contexts (LMICs), in order to accelerate digital inclusion, skills advancement, and acquisition for workers from historically marginalized populations around the world. With support from Microsoft and data.org, The Challenge provides funding and technical assistance to awardees to build and scale their programs.
MAIC is on track to deliver AI fluency to over 4,000 Mississippians by June 2024.
The physical hub for the AI Agency is The Bean Path’s Makerspace located in Jackson at 451 North Gallatin Street. The AI Agency is currently accepting businesses to participate in this pilot program.
“The funding allows us to pilot these programs so we can ensure that we can roll out a sustainable model across Mississippi,” shares Anik Kurjian, director of Bean Path’s Makerspace. “This unique model is designed to give businesses, who would normally not be able to afford this kind of support, the opportunity to better their operations through AI and for students to gain real-world experience and build their portfolios; building both our future and present entrepreneurs and workforce.”
In addition to the AI Agency, MS CSTA will facilitate the Educator AI Accelerator, a six month fellowship for educators, aimed at empowering educators to lead the charge in teaching, training, and advocating for equitable AI educational practices. The Skill Ai-Thon supports advanced upskilling and certifications in generative AI by offering a free online Career Essential in Generative AI Professional Certificate from LinkedIn Learning.
“The support from data.org, with Microsoft’s backing, is a game-changer for our initiative,” said Bob Buseck, Executive director of the Mississippi Coding Academies, who will be offering AI bootcamps. “It’s a testament to the potential of what we can achieve here in Mississippi – creating an inclusive AI ecosystem that uplifts every community member.”
For more information or businesses interested in signing up with the AI Agency, visit www.thebeanpath.org.