AI offers new opportunities for local services

Written by Jan Trei on 2 July 2019 in Opinion
Opinion

The potential of artificial intelligence extends far beyond business and could revolutionise the way in which we deliver to our citizens; local and regional services must play an active role, writes Jan Trei

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The world is moving to a new paradigm. Technological advances have delivered a revolution, and we are in the new digital age. The French philosopher Descartes was serious about creating an artificial mind.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has studied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential developments, compares the development of AI with the industrial revolutions. In the coming years, AI will change almost every sector of the economy and thus the world and society

 I have been asked why the Committee of the Regions needs to draw up a voluntary opinion on artificial intelligence, when the European Commission and many other institutions are already dealing with it.

My answer is very simple; we want to show the importance and opportunities of AI for regions and local municipalities.


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We can increase productivity in the economy and take both state and local government services to the next level. We can also draw attention to the dangers that will inevitably arise from AI’s introduction.

In the opinion, we point out that European local and regional authorities should be more involved in guiding developments in the field of AI in areas such as self-driving vehicles and demand-based public transport, smart city concepts, smart solutions in social welfare and health care, the environment, its application to e-government and different e-services in the field of education.

We encourage the EU to seize the opportunity to automate processes and repetitive tasks through the use of machines and artificial intelligence capable of performing repetitive tasks much more quickly than humans.

We also highlight the need for a European framework for AI and support the EU’s common approach to boosting investment, preparing for socioeconomic change and establishing ethical guidelines.

In addition, we emphasise the need to develop further flexible mechanisms for implementing AI and for financing innovation in the EU.

“The world is moving to a new paradigm. Technological advances have delivered a revolution, and we are in the new digital age”

This will be essential for this rapidly-developing sector; the existing long-planned financial mechanisms do not provide sufficient flexibility to respond to change. The key messages from the “Artificial Intelligence for Europe” report are clear.

Retraining is essential; AI will begin to work for many people in the near future. This will also mean that many people may lose their jobs, or the nature of the job may change. It is vital for society to adapt to the new situation; people that lose their jobs will need retraining.

Flexibility in the funding of research and development is also essential. AI developments should not be project-based; they should be sustainable.

It is important that the EU and Member States coordinate AI strategies, while local and regional authorities should invest in deploying AI in different areas in the coming years.

It will also be very important to involve regions and local authorities in the development of AI through pilot projects, so that local governments do not avoid the area and fail to formulate their needs.

In the near future, the EU should significantly increase investment in AI development projects.

“The development of AI will be vital for local authorities and regions, which could use it to provide better and faster services, supporting the rights of their inhabitants and minimising the burden on them”

It is also important that it plans for the next EU financial perspective 2021-2027 to channel appropriate resources to AI development - the EU currently contributes three times less than Asia and five times less than North America.

It is important that the people who contribute to R&D in the AI community, and their skills, remain in the EU, and are not lost to China or the USA.

It is vital to support EU-wide development of large data and AI platforms as well as the digitisation of industry, which should provide the EU with a major competitive advantage.

In addition, it is essential to ensure an appropriate ethical and legal framework, in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the EU guidelines on artificial intelligence. The issue of security and ethics of AI in the European Union must be resolved in the near future.

There also needs to be a better synergy between the various EU policies and programmes (e.g. European Structural and Investment Funds, European Horizon, Digital Europe, Erasmus) to promote AI.

Local and regional authorities should invest in AI in the coming years as well as boosting private sector investment, combining its work with national and EU strategies.

The development of AI will be vital for local authorities and regions, which could use it to provide better and faster services, supporting the rights of their inhabitants and minimising the burden on them.

About the author

Jan Trei (EE/EPP) is CoR Rapporteur on cities and regions contribution to the development of artificial intelligence

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