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Rounding up European AI policies and developments

Europe continues to embrace policies around artificial intelligence across its member nations. After years of discussions and documents created for the European Parliament and social groups, the European Commission last year published the strategy document, “Comprehensive European Industrial Policy on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.”

The document deals with technological, ethical, legal and socio-economic aspects to boost the EU’s research and industrial capacity and to put AI at the service of European citizens and economy.

This post highlights the EU efforts around AI, as well as providing information about individual member states’ policies and efforts. Information in this was updated as of December 2019; additional initiatives since then are not covered here.

Three pillars

The strategy of the European Commission has three pillars:

Being ahead of technological developments and encouraging uptake by the public and private sectors. (see below, “Being ahead of technological developments,”)
Prepare for socio-economic changes brought about by AI (see below, “Preparing for socio-economic changes brought about by AI”)
Ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework. (see below, “Appropriate ethical and legal framework”)

In spite of these lofty ambitions, the European Commission will invest only €1.5 billion ($1.66 billion) in AI over the next 12 months, a 70% increase. Main policy priorities include:

Connecting and strengthening European AI research centers through the development of an “AI On Demand” platform. This platform will provide access to relevant AI resources in the EU for all users.
Supporting AI development in key sectors.

An overview of activities, is published by DG Connect of the Commission, is available here.

Socioeconomic impact

Responding to media publications about job losses, the European Parliament said it wants an additional focus on AI and robotics-related socioeconomic consequences. The policy paper states: “Prepare for socio-economic changes brought about by AI. To support the efforts of the Member States which are responsible for labour and education policies, the Commission will:

Support business-education partnerships to attract and keep more AI talent in Europe;
Set up dedicated training and retraining schemes for professionals;
Foresee changes in the labour market and skills mismatch;
Support digital skills and competences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, entrepreneurship and creativity;
Encourage member states to modernize their education and training systems.”
Cooperation necessary

Due to the relatively small size of most EU member states, coordination and cooperation are necessary to meaningfully boost AI in Europe. The main arguments given are:

Only when all European countries work together can they make the most of opportunities offered by AT in order to become world leaders in the crucial technology.
Europe wants to lead the way in AI-based on ethics and shared European values, so citizens and businesses can fully trust the technologies they are using.
Cooperation between member states and the commission is essential to address new challenges brought by AI.

In April 2018, 24 member states agreed on the Coordinated Plan on AI .

Citizens’ trust essential

The European AI strategy and the coordinated plan put forward trust as a prerequisite to ensure a human-centric approach to AI. It ne the trust of citizens to develop a broad strategy and implementation.

Research by the Center for Governance Change shows this is not quite the case: 74% of respondents across Europe said they think new technologies will do more harm than good; 25% support the use of AI as part of societal management.

Experts on ethics

In order to create broad support, the European Commission formed a High Level Expert Group (AI HLEG) with 52 experts from science, society and industry.

The High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence has as a general objective – to support the implementation of the European Strategy on Artificial Intelligence. This includes the elaboration of recommendations on future policy developments, and on ethical, legal and societal issues related to AI, including socio-economic challenges.

In June 2018, the AI High Level Expert Group published:

Ethics Guidelines on Artificial Intelligence: The guidelines put forward a human-centric approach on AI and listed seven key requirements that AI systems should meet in order to be trustworthy. These requirements will go through a piloting process, expected to conclude with the presentation of a revised document later this year. The seven requirements are:
Human agency and oversight
Technical robustness and safety
Privacy and data governance
Transparency
Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness
Societal and environmental well-being
Accountability

Policy and Investment Recommendations: Building on its first deliverable, the group put forward 33 recommendations that can guide Trustworthy AI towards sustainability, growth and competitiveness, as well as inclusion – while empowering, benefiting and protecting human beings. The recommendations were expected to help the commission and member states to update their joint coordinated plan on AI. This is expected to play a key role in building the future of AI in Europe.

The High Level Expert Group published an assessment list to be used as a practical guideline. The assessment’s pilot phase started in June 2019.

Being ahead of technological developments

The European Commission is increasing annual investments in AI by 70%, under the research and innovation program Horizon 2020. The investment will reach €1.5 billion through 2020.

The program’s goal is to:

Connect and strengthen AI research centers across Europe;
Support the development of an “AI-on-demand platform” that will provide access to relevant AI resources in the EU for all users;
Support the development of AI applications in key sectors.

However, this represents only a small part of all the investments from member states and the private sector. This is the glue linking individual efforts, to make together a solid investment, with an expected impact much greater than the sum of its parts.

Preparing for socio-economic changes brought about by AI

To support the efforts of the member states responsible for labor and education policies, the commission will:

Support business-education partnerships to attract and keep more AI talent in Europe;
Set up dedicated training and retraining schemes for professionals;
Foresee changes in the labor market and skills mismatch;
Support digital skills and competences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), entrepreneurship and creativity;
Encourage member states to modernize their education and training systems.
Appropriate ethical and legal framework

Some AI applications may raise new ethical and legal questions, related to liability or fairness of decision-making. The commission wants to move a step forward on ensuring legal clarity in AI-based applications.

The commission welcomed the final document Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, prepared by the High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence, on April 8, 2019.

According to the guidelines, trustworthy AI should be:

Lawful – respecting all applicable laws and regulations;
Ethical – respecting ethical principles and values;
Robust – both from a technical perspective while taking into account its social environment.

The commission will also develop and make available guidance on the interpretation of the product liability directive.

AI strategies in different EU countries

While member states of the European Union collaborate on the development of artificial intelligence – see Comprehensive European Industrial Policy on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics,  almost all countries have their own strategy and priorities.

Below a brief overview per country, with links to official documents where available.

Austria

Austria’s policy is not yet finished. In 2017 the Robot Council was formed, which advises the Ministry of Infrastructure on the technological, economic and social aspects of robotics and AI.

Scandinavia and the Baltic countries

Various relatively small Northwest European countries and territories (the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Åland Islands and the Baltic countries Latvia and Lithuania) decided to work together. They published the Declaration on AI in the Nordic-Baltic Region.

Belgium

The Belgian government concluded the country was behind, which led to the formation of the AI 4Belgium Coalition. This coalition has published an action plan with six detailed objectives.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria’s policy is based on the government’s 2014 innovation plan and the subsequent policy advice Artificial intelligence ecosystem in Bulgaria. Its authors state the country has 14 pros in this field.

Croatia

The country’s strategy has not been finalized yet. As a first step, the ”Artificial Intelligence Potential for Croatia” assessment was published. At the end of 2019 a paper with opportunities for AI in Croatia was published, which is to lead to a strategic plan by year-end..

Cyprus

A committee of experts in Cyprus developed a national strategy document for Artificial Intelligence in Cyprus. The document in now in draft version available for public consultation.

Czech Republic

The government has committed itself to becoming a country of the technological future within twelve years. The instrument therefore, The National Artificial Intelligence Strategy of the Czech Republic (NAIS) contains nine steps for achieving the objectives.

Denmark

The Danish National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence states: Denmark is to be a front-runner in responsible development and use of artificial intelligence. The strategy contains 24 initiatives aimed at the development and use of AI. The country gives priority to four sectors: healthcare, energy and utilities, agriculture and transport.

Estonia

Working separately from the other Baltic countries, a team of Estonian artificial intelligence experts have put together a report outlining 11 recommendations and activities on how to accelerate applying AI in private and public sectors. The government has a plan to establish an AI Task Force to draw up legal, business and communications strategies.

Finland

Finland has an artificial intelligence program led by a steering group that was appointed by Minister of Economic Affair. The group published their first report in December 2017.  This report gives eight proposals. A second report (June 2018) provides policy recommendations related to the impact of AI on economics and employment, the labour market, education and skills management, and ethics.

France

French policy is geared towards the creation of the broadest possible societal support, based mainly on:: For a meaningful Artificial Intelligence: towards a French and European strategy. It has seven focal points.

Germany

The National AI Strategy is a framework for a holistic policy. The plan focuses on three key sectors: the car industry, manufacturing and healthcare. For autonomous cars the German government defined 20 ethical rules in a report entitled, ‘Ethics Commission: Automated and Connected Driving’

Greece

Greece seems to be late to the game. In 2019 Microsoft and Accenture published a study: Greece: With an AI to the future. The two main conclusions:

Mixed emotions seem to overwhelm Greeks when they think about AI.
Greek captains of industry recognize the strategic importance of AI. However, they hesitate to experiment and invest in it.

It’s unclear whether the government will publish a national strategy.

Hungary

Hungary is at the start of its AI policy development. In Spring 2019, the government announced an action plan for ‘artificial intelligence, innovation and technology’ will be published in 2020. Technology minister László Palkovics states the AI strategy will provide new foundations for the country’s competitiveness.

Ireland

Ireland is well behind in formulating an AI strategy, let alone take concrete action. Consultancy PWC says Ireland should have six priorities for a successful AI policy. By the end of 2019, it was unclear if and when the Irish government would act on this issue.

Italy

In March 2019, the Task Force on Artificial Intelligence of the Agency for Digital Italy published the whitepaper Artificial Intelligence at the Service of the Citizen. The whitepaper contains 10 recommendations for the short term.

Latvia

Apart from its collaboration with other Baltic and Scandinavian countries (see above) the country has not published a national strategy. Its considerations are laid out in this memorandum.

Lithuania

In addition to its joint policy development with other Baltic and Scandinavian partners, a group of Lithuanian AI experts published the strategy document: Lithuanian Artificial Intelligence Strategy – A VISION OF THE FUTURE. The document constitutes an analysis of Lithuania’s prospects regarding artificial intelligence systems and a presentation of strategic recommendations for government policies.

Luxembourg

The AI policy vision is built on Luxembourg’s ambitions as a digital front-runner.

To be among the most advanced digital societies in the world, especially in the EU
To become a data-driven and sustainable economy
To support human-centric AI development

The administration of this small European country published a strategic vision document. The government plans to consult the public regarding AI – collecting all perspectives. It will begin by launching a public consultation at the end of 2019.

Malta

A draft strategy was formulated in a discussion document: Towards an AI Strategy which was distributed for public consultation in March 2019. The ethical framework which Malta is developing will take account of the Draft Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence issued in December 2018 by the EU High-Level Expert Group on AI.

Poland

The country focuses on the policies and tools needed to foster an environment conducive to the creation of AI technologies in Poland. Members of a round table edited the Map of the Polish AI with AI solutions for the future of health care, public administration, education and cybersecurity. It is unclear when the government will release a strategy document.

Netherlands

In the Strategic Action Plan for Artificial Intelligence the Dutch government indicates three priority areas:

Intense public and private partnerships
Optimize conditions: education and business environment
Strengthen fundamentals: civil rights, ethics, national security

Using the phrase “Kickstart AI,” five major corporations have announced investments to the tune of “tens of millions” for AI development.

Portugal

The Portuguese government has concentrated its AI policy making and implementation in Portugal INCoDe and the National Initiative on Digital Skills 2030. This integrated digital competency program for AI is based on five “axes”: inclusion, education, qualification, specialization and research.

Romania

At the end of 2019, the government published its strategic plan. The country will adhere to the OECD Recommendations on Artificial Intelligence. The Romanian Association for Artificial Intelligence has played an important role in realizing this plan.

Slovakia

Slovakia’s strategic plan contains five key actions. The private sector, especially Adient, AmCham, IBM, Accenture and Microsoft are leading; the government follows. Implementation coordination is carried out by the Slovak Center for Artificial Intelligence.

Slovenia

The Slovenian government has announced a plan to set up Europe’s first international artificial intelligence research center. The Department of Intelligent Systems at the Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) in Ljubljana will convert into a center that focuses on the governance and policies surrounding AI.

Spain

As far back as 2011, the Spanish government published a whitepaper on robotics. This report is one of the foundations of the Spanish Strategy for Artificial Intelligence Policy document. The AI white paper contains six priorities and seven recommendations.

Sweden

Sweden’s AI policy is formulated in the National approach for artificial intelligence. This is based on a study: Artificial intelligence in Swedish business and society: Analysis of development and potential.  A major player in the development and implementation of AI policies is the Swedish AI Society.

Switzerland

While not a member of the European Union, Switzerland typically coordinates closely with the EU. A group of experts wrote a report with recommendations for the Swiss national AI strategy. Five areas are at the heart of the report and its recommendations: Switzerland must set up a national data platform; it must create an “AI verification and certification body”; the trust of society in technology must be strengthened; research on and with AI should be encouraged and its use in higher education strengthened; finally, companies, especially SMEs, must be able to use AI for their benefit.

The United Kingdom

In April 2018, the European Commission published the report, ‘AI in the UK: ready, willing and able?’ which considers AI development and governance in the U.K. It acknowledges that the U.K. cannot compete with the US or China in terms of funding or people.

In a response, the U.K. government wrote to parliament: “Artificial intelligence is a growing part of many people’s lives and businesses. It is important that members of the public are aware of how and when artificial intelligence is being used to make decisions about them, and what implications this will have for them personally.”

At the end of 2019 it wasn’t clear whether the government will develop an AI strategy and/or coordinate with the EU, given Brexit.

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