In mid-February, the European Commission presented three important documents: Shaping Europe’s digital future, a European data strategy and a White Paper on artificial intelligence. Public consultations are ongoing on the last two.
The White Paper on Artificial Intelligence arises from Europe’s ambition to become a leader in artificial intelligence (AI) systems, lead the race within large data sets, and maintain technological sovereignty, industry leadership and economic competitiveness.
The Data Strategy focuses on how the union will make better use of data to support innovation and entrepreneurship while enhancing security. The development of a standalone data strategy is also dictated by the fact that one cannot speak of AI without clear data regulations.
Shaping Europe’s Digital Future is a document that integrates the two above mentioned topics and links them to Europe’s overall vision of digitalisation, aiming to play the role of a five-year roadmap for the policies in the field.
What Europe wants to achieve with the three documents
The Commission wants to develop clear regulations on artificial intelligence by the end of 2020, including the issues of accountability, security and data rights (including biometrics). Much of the legislation will depend on the feedback the Commission will receive from the industry, the public and the member state governments in the coming months.
In this way, institutions and citizens will have solutions on issues such as: responsibility in an accident with an autonomous car, whether AI technologies should be deployed in sensitive areas such as recruitment, healthcare, transportation, law enforcement, whether artificial intelligence conflicts with people’s rights and more.
The EU also wants to implement its plan to build a single data market by convincing industrial players to share their data with start-ups, the public sector or other stakeholders who would want to use it to develop new applications.
The first concrete policy that can be achieved in the data strategy is the framework for Common European Data Spaces to be published by the end of 2020. These “spaces” will be designed to encourage companies to consolidate their data, and a specific data law bill will introduce rules for business-to-business or business-to-government data sharing and potentially give people an enhanced ‘data portability’ or in other words the ability to transfer their data from one company to another.
The exchange of data between business and government is a core part of the Commission’s philosophy, according to the Strategy for the Digital Future of Europe. The aim is for the public sector to take advantage of the wealth of data from private companies, which can be then shared and used for the public interest (in cases such as reduction of disasters’ damage, big cities congestion, etc.).
In this way, Europe’s digital strategy will have an impact on a wide range of sectors beyond the purely technological. It will have a major impact on agriculture, energy, health, financial services and transport, and the Commission’s vision for “data spaces” includes large sets of data shared by each sector. For example, public health authorities can share patient data in the European “health data spaces” available to researchers for new therapies. The results of treatment effects on patients across the continent should also be available.
The strategy also strives to review the rules for large platforms with significant network effects (such as Facebook, Amazon, Google) and demand that they be fair to innovators, businesses and new entrants, as well as ensure transparency about what online content is being tracked or moderated.
The Commission wants to invest around € 6 billion to create the infrastructure for a single data market. About € 2 billion will come from the Commission itself and the rest from member states and industry.
With regard to artificial intelligence, the Commission wants to attract over € 20 billion in annual investments (European, national and private) over the next ten years. Currently, Europe produces over 25% of industrial and professional robots and over the last three years, EU funding for AI research and innovation has increased by 70% over the previous period. Nevertheless, the overall estimate is that this growth is not sufficient for a leadership position.
Here are some helpful links on the topic in case you want to get involved in the public consultations:
The official statement (in Bulgarian and English)