Where does Europe stand with respect to Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) as become one of the top issues at the center of the European Commission and national governments’ attention. This domain bears many opportunities for the European economy and welfare; however, it has also raised some doubts on its ethics, regulation compliance and its implementation process. The political and societal debate has come to see the strategic importance of AI, which would drive economic development and spur innovation. Indeed, Artificial Intelligence is one of the goals that shall be achieved with uttermost importance according to the European policy on a “Digital Europe”.

A key element for positioning the EU among the actors on the forefront of Artificial Intelligence would be holding high-quality data. The Commission underlines the need for legal clarity in AI implementation, especially for what concerns data protection. Thus, in 2016, it proposed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)to promote a coordinated approach of data sharing across Member States and industries. Brussels underlines that AI is not only a matter of technological development, but also an ethical and societal values. The great power of Europe is mirrored by its great human centric responsibility – protecting data subjects and benefitting citizens are the milestone of AI-based applications.

“Digital Europe” has played the role of ground-breaking in the process of AI progress and improvement. Although on the other side, Europea has much at stake to fulfil its potential. Only a small percentage of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are adopting Big Data and AI for their business; some lack from the so-called know-how, while others have not set digital innovation of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (ML) as their priority. Moreover, infrastructures have been shifting towards the digital and the cyber only in recent years. 

From a national and international perspective, synergetic and cooperation are in the process of being developed, but it is not an easy task. R&D should be in the top-list of Member States’ investments or else it is not possible to make the most of European Artificial Intelligence, but it is not. It is also possible to find reluctance in sharing information with other actors about innovation and digital trends. States should be ready to overcome their sentiment of nationality to achieve harmonization. The “co-ordinated plan on Artificial Intelligence” in intended for harmonization and the alignment of AI application with European fundamental rights, principles and regulations. Any actor involved, from public to private, must evince the required levels of transparency and accountability.

The European landscape is fragmented, and each situation calls for a case-by-case solution. Different sectors have specific different applications of AI. Anyhow, this matter has always existed, and the EU has already being working on the harmonization processes, adopting both a vertical and horizontal approach.

The Covid-19 pandemic has obliged the entire world to take a leap from traditional operations and has accelerated digitalization within all sectors – workplace, education, bureaucracy. Europe has responded pretty good to the challenge and shall keep steering in this direction.

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