Developing AI at the heart of European Rights and Freedoms

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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The benefits of Artificial Intelligence are limited only by our imagination.  [pixabay]

The benefits of Artificial Intelligence are limited only by our imagination. Healthcare and Manufacturing are two vertical sectors in Europe that will benefit greatly from human-centric AI, boosting all indicators from safety to efficiency while driving down costs.

For example, moving healthcare from primary to secondary personalised care is becoming more and more a reality.

The idea that AI is a black box that operates without human intervention scares people. In reality, AI algorithms and automation are and will always, as it should, be human-centric enabling us to deliver augmented capabilities. The technology today can provide advanced educational services that can adapt to people’s abilities and needs, react faster to humanitarian disasters or more importantly prevent them, and detect and investigate fraud.

I hope the benefits are obvious to you, but of course we cannot diminish nor ignore any potential dangers that the use of AI could produce. The priority number one for our industry is to address how these technologies will respect European values and legal standards to gain broad social acceptance on which the success of AI in Europe depends.

As I wrote this, the General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) was only a few days of coming into force. It will offer EU citizens the highest level of data protection and privacy that has ever existed.  All our members developing AI technologies have built in privacy-by-design features into their core development processes.

The same applies to cybersecurity.  Our industry has developed protocols in its engineer teams as we have understood over a decade ago that the success of our industry depends on the confidence and trust we can secure in our products and services.

While some of the public narrative goes to extremes on the dangers of AI, DIGITALEUROPE and our members fully agree as a moral imperative that defining ethical standards is the means towards preserving our values.  Every day we work on technical and procedural solutions to achieve this.

Technology companies are listening closely to governments and civil society on issues of fairness, accountability and transparency to address concerns of bias and discrimination. To try and avoid such problems, especially in regard to implicit biases, and to ensure ethical, fair and accountable AI, many companies have set in place constant re-evaluation processes. It can detect divergences and anomalies, and quickly correct these flaws.

We believe the best way to reduce bias is through robust data quality policies that can make available high-quality and diverse data sets. The higher the quality of the input, the higher the quality of the output. This, combined with training and education of the designers and consumers of AI and algorithms, will help to prevent discrimination and to better detect and correct such issues.

We also need to have a good balance of gender, cultures, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds in developing AI applications or we risk our solutions to not be suitable for all people in going forward. According to Eurostat over 83% of ICT specialists in Europe are men.

We need a continued focus to not only ensure computer coding is built into the education system as a core area but to also ensure it is developed in a way to be more attractive to women. Only then will we have all citizens on board in the digital era.

As the secretariat for the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, we urge Governments to make the necessary investments and changes in the educational systems to ensure our society as a whole is inclusive, and we work with employers to re-skill and up-skill the workforce.

The European Commission launched its Communication on Artificial Intelligence for Europe on 25 April. The proposal will drive an international dialogue on ethics as one of its main pillars. It is only through joint work between actors across government, civil society and private sector that the fundamental layer for Artificial Intelligence will be the respect and promotion of European values.

Broad stakeholder engagement ensures that the technical and practical expertise is matched with the political, ethical and social goals of Europe. This should be paired as well with an eye towards the global context, to form a robust policy framework and take a leadership role for others to follow.

In this context, we opened a dialogue on AI with policymakers from the Commission and the Parliament at our Masters of Digital flagship event last February, and we are very active within the DIGITALEUROPE AI working group.

Our industry stands firmly behind being part of this dialogue to address these important issues.

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