EU launches AI strategy

By on 18/12/2018 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The European Commission intends to turn the EU into a global leader in AI (Image courtesy: Jai79).

The European Commission and member states have drawn up a plan to foster the development and use of AI, to “ensure that Europe reaps the benefits” of the new technology.

The Commission presented the “coordinated plan”, developed in partnership with 28 EU member states, Norway and Switzerland, in Brussels on Dec 7.

In it, they propose that countries work closely with one another across four key areas: increasing investment; making more data available; fostering talent; and ensuring trust. A statement released by the European Commission said: “Stronger coordination is essential for Europe to become the world-leading region for developing and deploying cutting-edge, ethical and secure AI.”

Healthy data-sharing

The EC’s vice-president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, said: “I am pleased to see that European countries have made good progress. We agreed to work together to pool data – the raw material for AI – in sectors such as healthcare to improve cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

Data-sharing between EU nations is a key component of the plan. Health services can particularly benefit from AI, it says, and to this end the Commission “will support the development of a common health database with anonymised scans of injuries, donated by patients, to improve cancer diagnoses and treatments with AI technology.”

The Commission acknowledges there is currently a low level of investment in AI – especially compared with the USA and China – and says it will “coordinate investments” to ensure more money is pumped into AI development across the EU.

“Our aim is to reach at least €20 billion [US$23bn] of private and public investments by the end of 2020,” said Ansip. “This is essential for growth and jobs. AI is not a nice-to-have; it is about our future.”

Applying biological intelligence

To tackle the issue of skills shortages, the Commission says it will create dedicated scholarships in advanced degrees, and encourage “lifelong learning” for the whole of society – especially for the workers most affected by the new technology.

Finally, the new European AI plan aims to “develop a technology which respects fundamental rights and ethical rules.”

Commissioner for digital economy and society Mariya Gabriel said: “Like electricity in the past, AI is transforming the world. Together with Member States we will increase investments for rolling out AI into all sectors of the economy, support advanced skills and maximise the availability of data.

“The coordinated action plan will ensure that Europe reaps the benefits of AI for citizens and businesses and competes globally, while safeguarding trust and respecting ethical values.”

The plan was the culmination of six months’ work following the EU’s AI strategy, laid out in April 2018. Member States and the Commission are to monitor and review progress of its implementation on an annual basis.

About Natalie Leal

Natalie is a freelance journalist whose work has been published by The Sun Online, The Guardian, Novara Media, Positive News, and Welfare Weekly, among others. She also writes reports and case studies on global business trends for behavioural insights agency, Canvas8. Prior to working as a journalist Natalie worked for the public sector in social services for several years. She switched careers in 2013 after winning a fully funded NCTJ in a national writing competition. She holds a Masters degree in social anthropology from Sussex University where she specialised in processes of social change and international conflict and reconciliation processes.

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