On March 25 the Center for Data Innovation held a Webinar on “European AI priorities over the next six months”. Guest speakers included representatives at a European and National level as well as policy makers and industry experts.
The Center for Data Innovation originally envisaged a European AI Policy Conference but owing to the Coronavirus pandemic this was cancelled and subsequently replaced with this morning’s webinar. Furthermore, the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic continued to have a strong influence upon discussions. Moderator, Eline Chivot Senior Policy Analyst at the Centre for Data Innovation kicked off events by quizzing Irina Orissch, AI Team leader at the European Commission, if the recent developments would impact the Commissions work and forecasted timeline for rolling out Artificial Intelligence (AI) legislation by the end of this year. Ms. Orssich stressed that recent developments had actually highlighted the importance of digital, and specifically AI, in all of our lives and that it was now a priority to explore how digital and AI can contribute in facilitating the current crisis. Ms. Orissch clarified that the public consultation has been launched and is expected to run until the end of May. Building upon this, Ms. Orissch stated that the Commission does not expect any of its deadlines or milestones set out in their recently published white paper to be changed or extended. The aim is still to work towards releasing legislation for AI at the end of 2020.
Moving forward, Ms. Chivot posed the question that, given the increased importance of technology and AI, what should Europe’s top policy priorities be in order to boost AI in Europe? Magdalena Piech, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Allegro and Chair of the European Tech Alliance stated that Europe should avoid overlapping with existing legislation and strive to maintain competitiveness on a global level. Conversation then naturally moved to the idea that Europe is lagging behind the US and China especially in the field of data. However, Ms. Orissch countered this argument stating that Europe has excelled in some areas relating to data and the Commission has released plans to address those lacking. The Commission aims at addressing these data deficits through its data pools where various players can share data sets for their own benefit. This will ultimately allow for clearer interoperability.
Concluding discussions, panellists were asked what success for AI in Europe looks like for them. Yet again, the impact of the coronavirus featured heavily across all responses with panellists agreeing that AI has the potential to create a better world, better health systems and can be used to combat climate change. Mr. Civilis stated that technology and AI need to step in, show what it can do for us today and confirm our trust in order to secure its mandate for the future. Ms. Orissch once again reiterated the Commissions desire not to let the process be affected by the crisis and encouraged stakeholders to partake in the ongoing public consultation.