The European Commission (EC) kicked-off its Digital Day 2019 with a focus on AI, taking an approach where, it stated, “the added value lies in the fact that it is human centred, it is the human behind the wheel”.

Noting opportunities in healthcare, waste management and fraud prevention, among others, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel (pictured) said: “We have a threefold European strategy for AI, fostering development, addressing social issues and ensuring ethical AI.”

“The challenges for the future are numerous including, of course, ethics, but also the need for investments and the world race. In this perspective, we keep on moving forward.”

Building on the work of a 52-member high-level expert group, which includes members from industry and academia, the Commission launched a pilot to ensure its ethical guidelines for AI development and use can be implemented in practice.

The work is based on “seven essentials for achieving trustworthy AI”, including the need to support human oversight and rights: AI should not “decrease, limit or misguide human activity”. Citizens should also have control over their own data, which should not be used to harm or discriminate against them.

Transparency is also important, with the traceability of AI systems ensured. Mechanisms should also be in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes.

AI systems also need to support diversity, non-discrimination and fairness: they should consider the whole range of human abilities, skills and requirements, and ensure accessibility. They should also be used to enhance positive social change and enhance sustainability and ecological responsibility.

Additonally, AI systems need to be secure, reliable and robust enough to deal with errors or inconsistencies during all lifecycle phases.

The EC said it wants to bring its approach to AI ethics to the global stage, “because technologies, data and algorithms know no borders”. It will continue to work with “like-minded partners” including Japan, Canada and Singapore, while continuing to play an active role in international discussions and initiatives including G7 and G20.

Operator group Telenor was among the players issuing early support for the EC’s work. Ieva Martinkenaite, VP at Telenor Research and a member of the expert group (pictured, left), said: “AI ethics is a complex topic with unsolved challenges that leaders of industry and of policy will need to come together to help solve for the good of the wider society. The Ethics Guidelines released by the EC are a good example of that and a starting point for such discussions in Europe and globally.”

Digital Single Market
Opening Digital Day 2019, EC VP Andrus Ansip updated on work to create the Digital Single Market, stating the EC had secured 28 of the 30 laws required to “build a functioning digital economy and society”.

He cited achievements including abolishing roaming charges; ending geoblocking of services; and adoption of policies designed to stimulate competition and investment in 5G networks. Other work highlighted included net neutrality policies and cybersecurity initiatives, along with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation.

“Along with data and investment, trust is also vital for the successful development of AI,” he said.