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Covering the Artificial Intelligence ecosystem in Europe.

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The European Commission publishes guidance on the free flow of non-personal data, focussing on the interaction of the FFD regulation (free flow of non-personal data, applicable as of 28th May) and the GDPR (General Data Protection regulation). The Council of Europe publishes a report entitled Unboxing Artificial Intelligence: 10 Steps to Protect Human Rights, building on previous work on the ethics of AI systems in judicial use. The recommendations are directly addressed to EU Member States and provide a checklist for each step.

James Cameron will join the board of Afiniti. The Taiwanese Minister of the National Development Council (NDC) will "lead a cross-ministry delegation to Europe in early June to discuss the digital economy with European Union officials".

This week's newsletter presents two deep dives into AI strategy. It features a summary of the Luxembourgish AI strategy, directly from Digital Luxembourg, and a summary of the Estonian AI strategy, translated and compiled by Risto Uuk (native speaker).

It was particularly important to me to bring Risto on board to present this newsletter's readers with a unique glimpse into Estonia's thinking. There is currently no official translation of the strategy document and I strongly believe that important nuances could get lost through translation services (incl. official translations).


AI strategies: Luxembourg and Estonia

Luxembourg's AI strategy

End of May, Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg’s Prime minister and minister for Digitalisation presented the country’s strategic vision for AI. In line with Luxembourg’s general approach to technology, the strategy points out that AI must above all be human centric. Acknowledging the speed of AI development, the report articulates the government’s intention to actively shape, drive and leverage this 'life-changing' technology. It aligns with Luxembourg’s three digital ambitions: 

  • Be among the most advanced digital societies in the world, & especially in the EU 
  • Become a data-driven & sustainable economy 
  • Support human-centric AI development 

“Cross-border collaborations have a long-standing history in Luxembourg and are prominently featured in the AI vision - for example by deepening strategic partnerships with the country’s neighboring regions Grand-Est, Saarland or Rheinland-Pfalz - and pursuing the objective to become part of a cutting-edge, cross-border hub for applied AI research excellence. Additionally, the strategic vision stresses the Grand Duchy’s agility, size and ambition to become a living laboratory for AI-driven applications. Great examples of current applied AI research and collaborations include Luxembourg, Germany and France testing connected and autonomous mobility in a cross-border testbed, as well as the establishment of Luxembourg as a health data hub in biomedicine and personalized medicine”, notes Max Gindt from Luxembourg’s Media and Communications service. 

In line with the European Commission’s Ethics guidelines for trustworthy AI, Luxembourg emphasizes the importance of establishing new standards regarding ethical guidelines, privacy regulations and security measures, ensuring that the data-heavy AI industry respects human rights. Luxembourg is keen to invest in an enhanced AI-friendly framework by studying the feasibility of regulatory sandboxes to develop frameworks that can support the country’s role as a living laboratory. 

Luxembourg’s citizens can expect to see public services improve as modern AI solutions are integrated. The country has already invested in key government initiatives related to eGovernment and multilingual solutions that serve as the groundwork for future AI applications. To ensure that AI can best serve all of society, skills training opportunities will help position everyone to equally benefit from the transforming business environment. Anticipating these challenges, the Government already launched in 2018 a pilot project - the Luxembourg Digital Skills Bridge - in order to facilitate the upskilling of the current workforce. 

Luxembourg has been investing heavily in international connectivity, ICT infrastructure and innovative projects for the past 15 years, often engaging in strategic partnerships. Luxembourg’s High Performance Computing (HPC) initiative, for example, strives to open up access to expensive computing resources and expertise to a broad range of actors, thus lowering the barriers to entry for AI-based products and services by mutualizing costs and pooling scarce skills. A chief example of this is the ongoing partnership with NVIDIA, which has led to the recent creation of a joint AI laboratory in Luxembourg, together with leading research institutions. 

An inter-ministerial coordination group, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, will regularly assess the strategic vision, which is presented as a framework for action and a starting point for new policies, rather than a one-off action plan. In the second half of 2019, the government is set to launch a public consultation to ensure that a broad range of citizen can articulate their opinion on the opportunities and risks related to the impact of AI on their everyday lives.

Estonia's AI strategy

The Ministry of Economics Affairs and Communications of Estonia together with the Government Office released a national strategy for AI. In this report, the expert group concludes that it's important for Estonia to start with pilot projects to get initial feedback and experience, about opportunities and benefits as well as threats and risks, and then plan long-term steps based on that. The strategy includes plans until 2021 based on which a long-term strategy will be created.

Estonia wants to invest heavily in the promotion of deployment of AI in the public sector, because it is only in the early stages or is receiving little attention in the rest of the world*. According to the strategy, this can grant Estonia a competitive edge. In addition, it is expected that this will contribute to the development of the whole field of AI. Main categories of problems identified are: awareness among management personnel and public servants, skills of public servants, funding, technical launch of projects, sustainability, and data.

In order to promote the deployment of AI in the business sector, Estonia finds it necessary to raise awareness as well as stimulate research and development, and innovation. The strategy states that research and development, and education are the basis for creating and implementing AI in the private and public sectors, focusing on educating additional professionals and supporting research. Research funding must increase (target of 1% of GDP) and so must support for doctoral students and investment in IT.

The strategy's legal analysis concludes that there is no need for fundamental changes to the legal system, but instead that some smaller changes to today's laws are needed in order for it to adapt to AI. These are identified as the following: remove obsolete norms with regard to AI from the legal system, provide the legal clarity necessary for understanding the implementation and responsibility around AI, and establish rules and restrictions on the development, use, and handling of AI.

It also provides a summary of other AI strategies such as from the EU, OECD, the Nordic-Baltic cooperation, Finland, Lithuania, Germany, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. Unfortunately, it does not explicitly mention which influenced Estonia’s thinking.

The strategy does not deal with ethical issues related to AI in detail. It does draw some general connections with principles arising from e.g. the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI by the AI HLEG, which are briefly summarized.

* Several other European countries such as Italy and the U.K. are also closely looking at this.

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