Although governments have been aware of the need to utilise and implement AI, policies specifically relating to this are a relatively new phenomenon. As a result, there is a wide discrepancy between different countries’ approaches. In 2019, the OECD published five key AI Principles which were designed to act as recommendations to governments as they began considering and putting into practice AI policy. These were:
- Invest in AI research and development
- Foster a digital ecosystem for AI
- Shape an enabling policy environment for AI
- Build human capacity and prepare for a labour market transformation
- Foster international co-operation for trustworthy AI
The OECD published their June 2021 report, in conjunction with the European Commission, which highlights the different strategies and approaches adopted by various governments. The report was developed together with Member States to maximise the impact of investments at European Union and national levels, and to encourage synergies and cooperation across the EU. One of the key actions towards these aims was an encouragement for the Member States to develop their own national AI strategies.
The report uses data from a joint database which covers 60 countries and includes insight from experts from governments and stakeholders. It goes on to discuss the state of implementation of national AI policies. The key conclusion is that countries are at significantly different stages of implementing their AI strategies. Canada launched their programme in 2017, but other countries are only just commencing consultation. By June 2021, 20 Member States and Norway had adopted national AI strategies. Eight Member States (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, and Romania) currently have final drafts of their strategies and intend to publish them before the end of 2021.
The report also finds that:
- Effective AI policy implementation needs to be co-ordinated across government, i.e. various departments must all communicate in order to achieve cohesion.
- There has been a significant promotion of investment in AI research and development with countries now devoting upwards of 1 billion EUR/USD/GBP to furthering their AI academies and research centres.
- Sharing data and AI compute are growing priorities for countries.
- There is a lot of focus supporting an agile transition from AI research and development to commercialisation.
- Regulatory frameworks are increasingly being put in place to ensure trustworthy AI is at the forefront of national implementation.
- There is a significant focus on building human capacity on AI and monitoring the impact of it in labour markets.
- Many countries are engaged in international cooperation on AI.
The report contains chapters on each Member State and serves to show the manner in which AI policy is slowly gaining importance in the making and implementation of government policy. Significantly, although policy is one aspect of national strategy, the report highlights the importance of private / commercial spending on AI in order for a country to truly thrive in AI research and development. Whilst the US is not considered in the report, it is used as an example of a country where private spending outweighs public spending on AI by three-quarters. This has put the country at the forefront of AI research and development and, accordingly, made it something of a world leader in the field. As EU Member States invest more in AI, so too should the private sector.
Finally, the report includes a section in every Member States’ chapter which delineates the way in which AI implementation could help to tackle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This includes the development of infection control systems, automated customs administration, enhanced computed tomography to understand the impact of the virus on the brain and virus recognition technology.
The report makes clear that Member States will continue to make AI a priority in their policy and investments. Greater EU wide collaboration on such issues serves to benefit all as each country navigates an ever changing and developing field.