The Italian strategy on artificial intelligence is now subject to a consultation proceeding to fine-tune its contents and finalize the actions to be taken.
The European strategy on artificial intelligence
In April 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a European strategy for AI in a communication entitled “Artificial Intelligence for Europe“. This document gives an initial definition of artificial intelligence, which refers to:
systems that display intelligent behaviour by analysing their environment and taking actions – with some degree of autonomy – to achieve specific goals.
and recommends that the EU adopts a coordinated approach to make the most of the opportunities offered by the AI and to address the new challenges it poses.
The Communication identifies three goals as the core of the European strategy on artificial intelligence:
- Boosting the EU’s technological and industrial capacity and AI uptake across the economy, both by the private and public sectors. This action includes investments in research and innovation which shall reach at least € 20 billion by the end of 2020 and better access to data, also through an open data strategy that will impact both the public and private sectors;
- Preparing for socio-economic changes brought about by AI by encouraging the modernization of education and training systems, nurturing talent, anticipating changes in the labor market, supporting labor market transitions and adaptation of social protection systems; and
- Ensuring an appropriate ethical and legal framework. This action includes guidance on existing product liability rules, a detailed analysis of emerging challenges, and cooperation with stakeholders, through a European AI Alliance, for the development of AI ethics guidelines. The goal is to create trust in artificial intelligence systems to encourage their adoption.
Based on the strategy outlined above, the European Commission issued a Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence, launching a European Artificial Intelligence Alliance and setting up an expert group on AI. The latter has the goal of defining the ethical guidelines and investment policies for artificial intelligence in Europe.
The Italian strategy on artificial intelligence
An essential step required by the above-mentioned Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence is that each EU Member State develops national AI strategies, outlining investment levels and implementation
Based on the above, the Italian Ministry of the Economic Development issued a draft national strategy on artificial intelligence that has nine goals:
- Increasing public and private investments in AI and related technologies;
- Strengthening the ecosystem of research and innovation in the field of AI;
- Supporting the usage of digital technologies based on AI;
- Strengthening the educational offering at every level, to bring AI to the service of workers;
- Exploiting the potentials of the data economy;
- Consolidating the legal and ethical framework that regulates the development of the AI;
- Promoting awareness and trust in AI systems among citizens;
- Boosting the public sector and make public policies more efficient; and
- Fostering the European and international cooperation for responsible and inclusive AI.
My view on the future of artificial intelligence
The current political situation in Italy is not ideal. It is hard to foresee which government will adopt such strategy on artificial intelligence and whether the work completed so far will be completely dismantled by the new government.
I honestly see some valid elements in the current draft of Italian strategy on artificial intelligence. However, I find some contradictory elements.
The strategy document refers to a report of the University of Milan according to which 3.6 million jobs could be automated in 15 years. And the workforce in the country might not have the ability to deal with the demand of skills required by the new jobs created. This scenario would require investments considerably higher than € 1 billion estimated in the report by 2025, also because Italy is a country of old workers that are less able to adapt to changes.
A long term strategy would require large investments and a training activity that shall involve not only new generations but also the current workers. The revolution of artificial intelligence is not going to happen in 15 years. It is already happening, and the impact of such a change will be substantially higher than what currently assessed.
The consultation on the Italian strategy on artificial intelligence will last up to the 13th of September 2019, and IoTItaly, the association on the growth of the Internet of Things in Italy of which I am one of the co-founders, will participate, given the close links between the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.
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