The European Commission is to invest EUR2 billion in the creation of an EU cloud alliance as part of an overarching strategy to leverage the region’s strong industrial data sets and boost development of AI technologies.
Addressing the European Parliament, commissioner Thierry Breton introduced a new initiative called ‘European Strategy for Europe - Fit for the Digital Age’, which includes a whitepaper on artificial intelligence and the European Strategy for Data which will work to inform a new legislative framework.
The overarching theme of Breton’s delivery focused on developing an EU strategy such that the deep-rooted transformations of digital technologies work to serve European citizens and not the other way around. Breton added that these technologies must be secure and must not be sold off at a reduced price
During his address Breton explained that the Big Tech giants have changed the way we communicate and have even come to shape the way we form democracies. There is a gigantic wave of data coming over us, the Commissioner explained and “by 2030, we think there will be 500 billion connected items over the planet and great dataset will emerge”.
Given Europe’s developed industrial base, Breton says that the data that will be extracted from a raft of industry sectors will enable the EU to leverage and monetise this significant asset. AI technologies will emerge and evolve from utilising these data sets. “We cannot look at AI without looking at data,” Breton commented.
A key element of the plan is the creation of an EU cloud platform alliance, into which the commission will invest 2 billion euros. Harmonisation, interoperability and budgetary concerns were raised during the session and the Commissioner called for further input during the consultation period in order to sculpt an effective Digital Services Act over the next 12 months.
Robin Jose, CTO at Scorable spoke to Finextra Research about the strategy: "If implemented, the European Commission’s data strategy will be an important step to restore Europe’s competitiveness in the data economy whilst safeguarding privacy rules.
“Data is power, drives innovation and fuels AI solutions. However, Europe has fallen behind the US and China when it comes to the development and adoption of new technologies including AI.
During the session Breton commented that through the strategy “we are trying to increase levels of trust” in order to build acceptance of AI technologies which are still widely thought to impede on personal privacy rights.
Asheesh Mehra, CEO & co-founder, AntWorks addresses the ethical complexities of data collection and the AI technologies to interpret it: “With such huge investment being made to lay the groundwork for AI, the EU now have a responsibility to construct a framework upon which AI can be built. Some people, including myself, refer to that responsibility as ethical AI, and this means that companies and governments need to be accountable.
“Legislators and regulators have a key role to play in the area of AI accountability. That involves specifying the applications for which AI can and cannot be used, but AI as a technology should not be regulated. Instead there should be governmental regulations put into place to help standardise how AI technology can be used.”
The Commission will continue to collect feedback over the coming months from stakeholders across industry, government and social sectors to develop the data regulatory framework. This isn’t expected to be finalised until late 2020.