Artificial Intelligence seminar

- Artificial intelligence and cyber security are two of the most important issues that we as societies and the digital economy in Europe are facing, said ambassador Oda Helen Sletnes as she opened a seminar initiated by The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO).

Clyde Kull

Policy makers, businesses and representatives from the university sector gathered at Norway House in Brussels last week to discuss the possibilities and limitations of AI, and how Europe should maneuver to keep track with the global development on AI and cyber security.

– We need to improve the implementation and adoption of the technologies, said Ieva Martinkenaite, vice president and head of Telenor-NTNU AI-lab.

Digital Europe Programme

Europe has signalized a strong ambition  to support the digital transformation of our societies and economy. The European Commission presented the Digital Europe Programme (DEP) in June. The programme, which entails investments of EUR 9.2 billion,  is the first programme Europe dedicates to digitalisation, and is meant to ensure that Europe can take a leading role in data driven innovation. DEP consists of five focus areas, where AI and Cyber Security are two of them. These two areas will receive EUR 4,5 billion in funds in the next programming period 2021-2027.

Norway has followed the proposal for a new digital programme and EU’s work on AI closely, and ambassador Oda Helen Sletnes emphasized that Europe should face the challenges and opportunities of new technologies together.

– The idea behind the Digital Europe Programme is that Europe needs to strengthen its capabilities within cyber security, artificial intelligence and advanced digital skills. These are key priorities for the Norwegian government as well.

Norway has already developed a strategy on cyber security, and is currently working on one for artificial intelligence. However, Europe is still lagging behind Asia-Pacific and the USA when it comes to AI. Several of the participants at last week’s seminar addressed this issue.

–  If Europe cannot find the strength to increase its investments and cooperation in the global technological race, others will fill the space, like the US, China or Russia, Sletnes added.

Read the Cyber Strategy for Norway here

Estonia in the lead

Estonia has been a pioneer in developing an AI strategy, and is currently working on a legislation that would determine the legal status of an AI product. The country has also recently appointed a cyber security ambassador.

Ambassador Clyde Kull, representing Estonia to the EU, outlined how he believes the issues regarding AI and cyber security is going to be tackled in the future.

– The international discussions on AI and cybersecurity are now moving forward in a more systematic way than earlier, said ambassador Kull.

Norway already cooperates closely with Estonia on digital matters. The Nordic-Baltic declaration on digitalization involves a close cooperation among the governments to provide better and more efficient services to citizens and businesses. The declaration was agreed upon in 2017, and is meant to drive the digital transformation of our societies, especially by creating a common area for cross-border digital public services in the Nordic-Baltic region.

Read the declaration here

What does Europe need now?

Ieva Martinkenaite, vice president and head of Telenor-NTNU AI-lab, shares the optimistic view on the future of AI and cyber security, but is calling for some targeted changes and new incentives. She emphasized the importance of close collaboration between researchers and the industry.

– We have great researchers and theoretical scientists, but there is a gap in implementing and deploying new technologies, said Martinkenaite.

When it comes to Europe’s role, she argued that more effective funding should be considered.

– Getting access to research funds is a very difficult procedure, and we have to ease that. I think we will also need the will to set up high-risk funds in order to better support the industry.