The European Union (EU) released a white paper on artificial intelligence (AI) and its continentwide data strategy Feb. 19 in an effort to position itself as the “global leader of digital transformation.”

The European Data Strategy proposes a single, unified data strategy for all of Europe. The European Commission (EC) says that the strategy “will enable the development of new products and services and will lead to productivity gains and resource efficiency for businesses and better services provided by the public sector.”

With this access to data, the EU could develop personalized medicine for patients, improve citizens’ commute, and help the continent become climate neutral, according to EC. The new strategy expands commercial access to data to help EU organizations compete with big tech firms around the globe.

Simultaneously, the strategy empowers individuals to have more control over what happens to their data. The strategy asks the EU to build a stronger legal framework around data protection so that citizens can decide who will access the data they generate and how that data will be used.

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The AI white paper released alongside the data strategy urges the EU to adopt a “human-centric” approach to AI systems. EC calls its approach to AI a “twin objective” to promote the use of AI while addressing its risks.

“Harnessing the capacity of the EU to invest in next generation technologies and infrastructures, as well as in digital competences like data literacy, will increase Europe’s technological sovereignty in key enabling technologies and infrastructures for the data economy,” the white paper reads.

EC suggests transparent application of AI in high-risk use cases, such as health or criminal justice, with human oversight. These use cases will be subject to tests and certifications by the EU government to ensure compliance. In low-risk cases, EC recommends a voluntary labelling system. All AI systems and algorithms interested in entering the EU market would be subject to comply.

The policy documents will not go into effect immediately. EC is accepting feedback on both documents to amend its proposals before advancing any legislation. It plans to incorporate proposals into the Data Act to be introduced in 2021. Then, the European Parliament will consider the strategy documents for several weeks before deciding on implementation.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.