Overseas-based Guyanese tech mogul invests in University of Guyana and local ICT sector

Impressed by the talents that exist within the local Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, one overseas-based Guyanese, who has demonstrated prowess on the world stage, has committed his efforts toward the development of the local sector.

Dr Jason Mars is the co-founder and CEO of Clinc, a company that is said to have created the world’s most sophisticated and comprehensive conversational Artificial Intelligence (A.I) platform for enterprises. He has set his sights on establishing a scholarship programme at UG that would support selected Computer Science majors in pursuance of PhD studies at the University of Michigan.

He has also begun networking with local tech companies which has led to meaningful collaboration and training on a certain project for the Ford Motor Company in the USA.

Professor Dr. Jason Mars
Professor Dr. Jason Mars

Dr. Mars is the son of Joan and the recently deceased Dr. Perry Mars. Though he was born in Jamaica, he spent some of his formative years in Guyana before migrating to the USA at the age of 8. It was during this period that his interest in Computer Science took root.

The 35-year-old is currently a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Michigan, where he directs Clarity Lab, one of the best places in the world to be trained in A.I., and system design. Prior to the University of Michigan, Dr. Mars was a professor at the University of California and he had stints at Google, Intel and IBM. Dr. Mars’ work building the world’s first open-source platform for constructing large-scale A.I. and deep learning-based Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPAs) has been recognized globally and continues to have a significant impact on industry and academia. It is called ‘Clinc’.

Clinc began as a research group at the University of Michigan under the name Clarity Labs Inc. and was later shortened to Clinc. The company itself was launched in July 2015, with a mission to redefine experiences through Conversational A.I. They have now doubled their staff.

‘Conversational A.I. is a software that allows interaction through conversation of the ilk of Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. However, the technology developed by Clinc is believed to be much more sophisticated and has been adopted by the financial/banking industry.

Many US firms are moving toward artificial intelligence-driven Smart Banking and a more advanced approach to customer service. Smart Banking uses cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence to personalize consumers’ banking experiences, increase productivity, improve fraud detection, and improve customer recommendations.

Clinc’s product is Finie (abbrev. for Financial Genie). It allows customers to talk to their bank accounts in a natural and conversational way to get real-time financial assistance. It is considered the world’s most cutting-edge voice-controlled A.I. platform for banking. Clinc was named #2 on Bank Innovations’ ‘Ten Most innovative CEOs in Banking 2017’ list.

According to Professor Mars, Clinc has expanded out of Michigan into San Francisco and London, and has customers in the USA, Canada, the UK, Turkey and Singapore. It ranks among its clientele such enterprises as Barclays Bank, Wells Fargo and Ford Motors. This articulates the broadening of the scope of Conversational A.I. from the financial sector to the wider economic spectrum.

Deepening ties with local ICT sector

In a recent visit home, Dr. Mars took the opportunity to establish linkages in the local ICT sector. The young Doctor explained that even though he left Guyana at age 8, he still envisions this country as home and he visits often. He found the local techs of like mind and has set up his company to play a part in the economic development of the ICT sector here. He even had a one-on-one in May with the University of Guyana’s VC, Dr. Ivelaw Griffith before he selected two Computer Science students for Clinc’s Scholarship programme.

“The beautiful thing about Guyana is that it has intellectual and energetic young people with fire in their bellies,” Dr. Mars said, and he expressed his belief that more work in educational development must be done to enable Guyanese to compete globally. He was impressed by the talent he encountered in UG’s Computer Science Department and made the decision to offer scholarships to Christopher Clarke and Roland Daynauth. He hopes to be able to do this annually.

Professor Mars has virtually joined the local ICT fraternity and he spoke highly of Version 75 Solutions (V75), a software development company focused on social impact. He said that he connected with its CEO and Founder, Eldon Marks, and has since offered funding. In addition, he invited Marks and two team members to Ann Arbor, Michigan to undertake competency training on his company’s A.I. platform.

Something Different

“There is so much that can be done and … I will contribute to sparking and building the tech sector in Guyana. We are just getting started. We are excited about what we are doing and I am committed to investing in Guyana and helping to contribute to the economic development of the tech sector, so stay tuned,” Dr. Mars stated.

Article adapted from: https://www.stabroeknews.com/2018/news/stories/04/15/coding-course-launched-to-encourage-more-girls-in-ict-field/