Bitkom on the European Data and AI strategy

Berlin, 19. February 2020 - The European Commission today published a European data strategy and a white paper on Artificial Intelligence. Bitkom President Achim Berg:

„Europe needs a coherent, highly ambitious data and AI strategy. It serves as the essential foundation for the future competitiveness of our economy and public administration, as well as our healthcare and education systems. The Commission today introduced the right objectives, but its approach still lacks the necessary measures to achieve them. It is not enough to say which goals you want to obtain, you also have to say how you are going to get there. Research centres and funding here and there will not suffice to meet the challenge.

Existing contradictions between forward-looking AI policy and a backwards-facing approach to data were not resolved through today’s publication. The Commission has missed an opportunity to clarify what a new balance between the responsible use of data and protection of privacy could look like.

Europe stands at a crossroads: We can be courageous, use our data treasures responsibly and make Artificial Intelligence a European key technology – or we hit the brakes, wall ourselves off and disconnect from global developments.

The European Commission takes the right approach by placing the societal and economic potential of AI front and centre and linking technology to data and enabling better data use. The proposed data spaces are a potentially valuable contribution to this end. In addition to the proposed spaces for research and experimentation, we also need to expand knowledge in public administrations and businesses through an ambitious programme that promotes digital literacy among all age groups.

In the area of AI regulation, the EU should only target specific application scenarios, rather than the technology as a whole. If we prohibit the use of any algorithm that might not have been developed according to European rules and values, we set ourselves on a path to more protectionism. The same goes for international data flows. The global exchange of data is a cornerstone of the digital transformation, and any localisation requirement would have a negative impact on our economy and society.

Already today the use of AI is being limited through existing legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation and anti-discrimination rules. That is why we need more digital expertise in public administrations and updated quality standards on AI in specific fields, for instance in medical device approval, and not a new supervisory authority for AI. AI systems are not perfect, but they often provide better results than comparable human work. Intended regulation and control of so called “high risk applications” of AI may prove counterproductive if there are no clearly defined, targeted and narrow criteria. Otherwise, we run the risk of legal uncertainty putting the brakes on digital innovation in Europe.”

Susanne Dehmel

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Bitkom e.V.