European Commission Unveils AI, Data Strategy

European Commission Unveils AI, Data Strategy

by March 3, 2020

In a whitepaper released last month, the European Commission (EC) unveiled its strategy to promote the development of artificial intelligence (AI) in Europe whilst ensuring the respect of fundamental rights.

The whitepaper outlines the institution’s plan to develop what it calls an “ecosystem of excellence” and an “ecosystem of trust.” The idea here is to create a legal framework that would address the risks for fundamental rights and safety related to AI, all the while introducing initiatives to support and facilitate the adoption of the technology.

“AI offers important efficiency and productivity gains that can strengthen the competitiveness of European industry and improve the wellbeing of citizens,” the paper says, adding that AI can also contribute to finding solutions to urging societal challenges related to sustainability, demographic changes, democracy and crime.

At the same time, AI entails a number of potential risks such as opaque decision-making, discrimination, intrusion in citizens’ private lives or can be being used for criminal purposes. And these risks must be dealt with.

Hence, the EC is proposing the introduction of a principles-based legal framework which would focus on high-risk AI systems to avoid “unnecessary burden” for companies to innovate, while giving citizens the confidence to use AI applications. The regulation would be built on the work of the High-Level Expert Group on AI, in particular the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI, which were tested by companies in late 2019, it says.

To encourage the development and adoption of AI, the EC wants to create an “ecosystem of excellence” which would focus on fostering collaboration between member states, streamlining research and increasing investment into AI development and deployment. These initiatives would be built on the Coordinated Plan on AI with member states of December 2018.

The required investments to finance the EC’s proposals on AI and data will be channeled from the Digital Europe program (DEP), the Connecting Europe Facility 2 (CEF2) Digital program and Horizon Europe.

For Horizon Europe, the EC has proposed to invest EUR 15 billion in the Digital, Industry and Space cluster, with AI as a key activity to be supported. As part of DEP, the institution has proposed to invest almost EUR 2.5 billion in deploying data platforms and AI applications. Meanwhile, CEF2 Digital is a proposed co-financing program aimed at supporting the development of digital connectivity infrastructures during the period of 2021-2027. The EC has proposed an initial investment of EUR 3 billion.


The EU’s digital strategy

The EC’s whitepaper on the proposed AI and data strategy is the first pillars of the EU’s new digital strategy, which aims for people and businesses in the region to fully benefit from technology, all the while helping to achieve the region’s target of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050.

In addition to its ambition for the development and adoption of AI, the EC wants to expand the region’s super-computing capacity, accelerate the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband, and develop a vibrant startup ecosystem, among other goals.

“Digital transformation can power our economies and help us find European solutions to global challenges,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EC, wrote in an opinion piece released on February 19. “This digital Europe should reflect the best of Europe – open, fair, diverse, democratic, and confident … and must protect and empower citizens, businesses and society as a whole.”

The EC is inviting stakeholders to comment on its AI and data whitepaper until May 19, 2020.