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Cheryl Ingstad, Director of the Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office at the Department of Energy, explains how the Department of Energy is collaborating with other agencies to help respond to the coronavirus and natural disasters

The federal government’s latest weapon in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic is artificial intelligence.

The Covid Insights Partnership combines the resources of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Energy. Its leader at Energy, Cheryl Ingstad, calls it “unprecedented.”

“[We’re] bringing together critical data sets at HHS, and critical sets at VA, and placing them in a secure data enclave,” Ingstad, Director of the Artificial Intelligence & Technology Office at the Energy Department, told “Government Matters” Sunday. “We then apply AI to them with data scientists and multidisciplinary teams of scientists as well, to do the analysis.”

The Department’s computing resources make it a logical partner for the data-sharing agencies. “We’re co-located with SUMMIT, our nation’s fastest and most powerful supercomputer,” Ingstad said. “When we talk about the massive data sets HHS and VA have, we’re well equipped to analyze those data.”

Ingstad’s team is also partnering with agencies, industry, and academia to deliver resources for first responders to disasters, through the First Five Consortium. “Responders want to have the best information possible so they can make decisions to save lives,” Ingstad said. “We’re applying AI to data sets to put AI tools in their hands, so they can react immediately to the situation.”

The First Five consortium’s initial focus will be in four areas: wildfire prediction and fire line containment; damage assessment, including ingress and egress routes for impacted areas; search and rescue; and natural disasters including hurricanes and tornadoes. Ingstad says the consortium could scale to deal with other areas in the future.

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