EACA was delighted to attend Digital Europe’s annual event Master of Digital in Brussels on February 6. The event brought industry experts, representatives and legislators together to discuss all things digital. Panellists delved into topics such as the digital industry and the Green New deal, however most pertinent for EACA and our members were discussions surrounding artificial intelligence (AI).
A key theme of the event was highlighting Europe as a strong digital player in the world. While Europe’s shortcomings were noted many times, multiple efforts were made to underline how Europe has been a strong world leader regarding various digital developments. Werner Stengg, member of Margrethe Vestager’s Cabinet remarked how Europe is in a strong position to shape the digital world of tomorrow, describing Europe as a strong continent, with strong people, skills and innovation. Stengg was speaking as part of the day’s first panel “An Industry fit for the Digital Age”. He was joined by MEP Axel Voss, Abraham Liu Huawei’s Chief Representative to the EU, Francesca Tagliani Director of Marketing and Sales Operations EMEA at Rockwell Automation and Bertrand Deprez VP EU Government Affairs at Schneider Electric. The focus of the panel was spent mostly discussing the difficulties the EU faces in harnessing a digital industry without impeding upon innovation. However, AI was a prominent topic throughout the panel discussion. In relation to AI Mr. Stengg stated that Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, did not want heavy regulation and that the Commission wanted to emphasise how to promote artificial intelligence rather than taking a defensive approach. Mr. Stengg said the White Paper, which will be released by the Commission on February 19, will be a culmination of the Commission’s analysis from various stakeholder discussions. Concluding the discussions, MEP Axel Voss urged the Commission to recognise that regulation can be used as a strong tool rather then seeing it as something that interferes with innovation.
Discussions surrounding AI continued into the second panel of the day “Harnessing Artificial Intelligence in the interest of the people”. Panellists included: Nicola Beer, Member and Vice President of the European Parliament, Peter Kofler, Chairman of the Danish Entrepreneurs Association, Christian D’Cunha Head of Private Office EDPS, Laura Heinemann, Permanent Representation of Germany to the EU, Attaché for Digital and Telecommunication and Daniel Schoenberger, EMEA Counsel for Artificial Intelligence Google. Whilst all panellists recognised the need to regulate AI, again, similar to the first panel of the day, sentiments regarding protection of innovation were reiterated. Panellists underlined the need for balance, trustworthiness and respecting European values when creating regulation for AI. Laura Heinemann also advocated for investment in AI imploring its necessity if Europe wishes to remain a global digital leader. Panellists discussed various factors of how AI could be defined as high risk or low risk applications. One suggestion was regulating AI based on various sectors, for example different regulations for AI applications being utilised in the health sector compared to applications posing a lower risk in other sectors.
Following further panel discussions on “Digital Solutions for the Green Deal” and “Digital 2040 – The Next 20 Years of European Digital Innovation”, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel delivered a keynote speech. Ms. Gabriel spoke about the need to upgrade Europe’s digital skills and that digital skills must be incorporated into our lifelong learning. Ms. Gabriel concluded the event presenting awards to the Future Unicorn Winners.