On 19 February 2020, the European Commission submitted a strategy for digital transformation. The document contains a vision of, and activities for creating a democratic European digital society, where people and European values are at the forefront, and technologies stimulate sustainable economic growth. Digitalization is also the key to climate change mitigation and building a competitive economy. The White Paper raises, among other things, the issues of AI applications, access, and further data use for Big Data analytics.
“Today we are presenting our ambition to shape Europe’s digital future. It covers everything from cybersecurity to critical infrastructures, digital education to skills, democracy to media. I want that digital Europe reflects the best of Europe – open, fair, diverse, democratic, and confident,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
Margrethe Vestager, the Executive Vice President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, pointed out that, “We want every citizen, every employee, every business to stand a fair chance to reap the benefits of digitalization. Whether that means driving more safely or polluting less thanks to connected cars; or even saving lives with AI-driven medical imagery that allows doctors to detect diseases earlier than ever before.”
Europe as a Digital Leader
Over the next five years, the European Commission wants to focus on three key digital goals:
- Technology for the benefit of people;
- Fair and competitive economy;
- Open, democratic, and sustainable society.
One of the priorities will be the strong protection of data rights and cybersecurity. The development of AI is intended to build on existing research centers and to strengthen the importance of AI in all industries: from automotive and service to healthcare and agriculture. Due to the complexity of the innovative systems based on AI algorithms, the main task will be to ensure transparency and gain public confidence concerning new solutions.
We want every citizen, every employee, every business to stand a fair chance to reap the benefits of digitalization
The European Commission’s White Paper includes a framework for the development of Artificial Intelligence. One of the building blocks is to strengthen the partnership between the private and public sector and to create the right economic incentives to adopt solutions based on AI, especially by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The strategy also includes the development of scientific staff and international cooperation with the EU. The EC also draws attention to “high-risk” AI applications, which means health, public safety, or transport, where data quality and the correct operation of algorithms are crucial. The EC suggests certification systems to be developed individually by EU member states.
The document mentions several times the issue of facial recognition systems, which are prohibited in Europe today, with few exceptions. The EC wants to start a discussion on this subject to clarify the list of justified uses of this technology.
The amount of data generated by businesses and public authorities is continuously increasing. However, most of their potential remains untapped. This is also about to change. The European data strategy aims to ensure that the EU becomes a role model and a leader of a data-driven society. The creation of a European data space, a single data market, is intended to help achieve this goal. This will unlock unused data and enable information flow between EU countries and different sectors of the economy. The data for Big Data analytics should be available to everyone, both public entities, and private businesses.
To achieve this, the Commission will first propose establishing an appropriate regulatory framework for data management, access, and reuse. Firstly, this requires the creation of incentives for data exchange, the establishment of practical, fair, and transparent rules for data processing in compliance with the principles of personal data protection, consumer protection, and fair competition rules. Secondly, the Commission wants to provide stronger support for the development of next-generation infrastructure systems. Moreover, the Commission will initiate sector-specific activities to create European data spaces, for example, for industrial manufacturing, mobility, and health. The Commission also wants to work to further reduce digital skills gaps among the continent’s inhabitants.
In line with the strategy, the EC will present a Digital Services Act and an action plan on European democracy, propose a revision of the regulation on electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services (eIDAS), and strengthen security by setting up a European cybersecurity organization.
The White Paper on Artificial Intelligence will be open for public consultation until 19 May 2020. Download the White Paper here.