EU Data AI Blockchain
Nagato Dharma

Digital Europe: Strategies for Artificial Intelligence, Data and Blockchain

European Union's plans for a digital transformation in the decade of 2020-2030.
  • EU to attract investments of $200 billion in Artificial Intelligence over the next 10 years
  • New data strategies and use of AI in multiple industries to help researchers, businesses and citizens
  • Blockchain implementation for digital IDs and services
  • Digital transformation based on European values of security and privacy

Digital technology is changing people’s lives. The EU’s digital strategy aims to make this transformation work for people and businesses, while helping to achieve its target of a climate-neutral Europe by 2050.

The European Union’s strategies for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data aim to encourage businesses to work with, and develop new technologies, while at the same time making sure that they earn citizens’ trust. Digital technologies considerably improve our lives, from better access to knowledge and content to how we do business, communicate or buy goods and services. The EU will ensure that the digital transformation will work for the benefit of all people, not just a few.

Businesses will benefit from a framework that allows them to start up, scale up, pool data, innovate and compete with large companies on fair terms. Society will benefit from social and environmental sustainability, and a secure digital environment that respects privacy, dignity, integrity and other rights in full transparency.

The Commission will focus on three key objectives to promote technological solutions that will help Europe pursue its own way towards a digital transformation that works for the benefit of people reflecting the best of Europe: open, fair, diverse, democratic and confident.

Over the next five years, the Commission will focus on three key objectives:

· Technology that works for people;

· A fair and competitive economy; and

· An open, democratic and sustainable society.

Europe will build on its long history of technology, research, innovation and ingenuity, and on its strong protection of rights and fundamental values. New policies and frameworks will enable Europe to deploy cutting-edge digital technologies and strengthen its cybersecurity capacities. In partnership with the private and the public sector, the aim is to mobilize resources along the entire value chain and to create the right incentives to accelerate deployment of AI, including by smaller and medium-sized enterprises. To support the development of trustworthy AI and the data economy.

Background

Since 2014, the Commission has taken a number of steps to facilitate the development of a data-agile economy, such as:

In 2018, the Commission presented an AI strategy for the first time, and agreed a coordinated plan with Member States. The High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence presented their Ethics Guidelines on trustworthy AI in April 2019.

In her Political Guidelines, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed the need to lead the transition to a healthy planet and a new digital world. In that context, she kick-started the debate on ethical Artificial Intelligence and the use of big data to create wealth for societies and businesses during her first 100 days in office.

The European Union is set to unveil its proposed regulations for artificial intelligence (AI). It is part of a plan to challenge the United States and China’s dominance in the sector. That includes committing billions of dollars in public and private funds to advance the science behind AI. Part of that investment will focus on bringing data storage back from other areas outside the EU – in particular the US. And one of the main issues it is focusing on is data privacy. The European Commission is particularly concerned as technologies like smart home systems and facial recognition become more widespread.

Recently, EU also announced it will invest 100+ million dollars in AI and blockchain startups.

Artificial Intelligence

The whitepaper on Artificial Intelligence sets out the Commission’s proposals to promote the development of AI in Europe whilst ensuring respect of fundamental rights. AI is developing fast, which is why Europe needs to maintain and increase its level of investment. At the same time, AI entails a number of potential risks that need to be addressed. The whitepaper sets out options to maximize the benefits and address the challenges of AI. It presents policy options to enable a trustworthy and secure development of AI in Europe, in full respect of the values and rights of EU citizens.

The Commission supports a regulatory and investment oriented approach with the twin objective of promoting the uptake of AI and of addressing the risks associated with certain uses of this new technology. The EU can develop an AI system that benefits people, businesses and governments and become a global leader in safe artificial intelligence.

Simply put, AI is a collection of technologies that combine data, algorithms and computing power. Advances in computing and the increasing availability of data are therefore key drivers of the current upsurge of AI. Europe can combine its technological and industrial strengths with a high-quality digital infrastructure and a regulatory framework based on its fundamental values to become a global leader in innovation in the data economy and its applications as set out in the European data strategy.

Data and artificial intelligence (AI) can help find solutions to many of society’s problems, from health to farming, from security to manufacturing. Some of the benefits can be:

  1. For Citizens: better healthcare, safer and cleaner transport, and improved public services;
  2. For Businesses: innovative products and services, for example in energy, security, healthcare; higher productivity and more efficient manufacturing;
  3. For Governments: cheaper and more sustainable services such as transport, energy and waste management;

This can only be achieved if technology is developed and used in ways that earns peoples’ trust. Therefore, an EU strategic framework based on fundamental values will give citizens the confidence to accept AI-based solutions, while encouraging businesses to develop them. Some of the goals are:

  • set-up a new public-private partnership in AI and robotics
  • strengthen and connect AI research excellence centers
  • have at least one digital innovation hub per member state specialized in AI
  • provide more equity financing for development and use of AI, with the help of the European Investment Fund
  • use AI to make public procurement processes more efficient
  • support the procurement of AI systems by public bodies

AI is about big data. The more the data, the smarter the algorithms. The aim is to attract more than €20 billion of total investment in AI per year in the EU over the next decade.

Access to data is important for researchers & businesses. The global amount of data that is produced, when you look 5 years ahead from now, this amount of data will be produced by Europe alone.

Europe has an advantage in the quality of data it has. It has a broad economic diversity with small and medium enterprises, the data that are collected in Europe on a daily basis are diverse coming from industries like commercial, data, machines, cars, weather stations etc.

The European Data Strategy

In a society where individuals will generate everincreasing amounts of data, the way in which the data are collected and used must place the interests of the individual first, in accordance with European values, fundamental rights and rules. Citizens will trust and embrace data-driven innovations only if they are confident that any personal data sharing in the EU will be subject to full compliance with the EU’s strict data protection rules. At the same time, the increasing volume of non-personal industrial data and public data in Europe, combined with technological change in how the data is stored and processed, will constitute a potential source of growth and innovation that should be tapped.

This digital Europe should reflect the best of Europe – open, fair, diverse, democratic, and confident.

The way in which data is stored and processed will change dramatically over the coming 5 years. Today 80% of the processing and analysis of data takes place in data centers and centralized computing facilities, and 20% in smart connected objects, such as cars, home appliances or manufacturing robots, and in computing facilities close to the user (‘edge computing’). By 2025 these proportions are likely to be inverted. Aside from the economic and sustainability advantages that this development presents, it opens up additional opportunities for businesses to develop tools for data producers to increase control over their own data.

The availability of data is essential for training artificial intelligence systems, with products and services rapidly. Currently, a small number of Big Tech firms hold a large part of the world’s data. This could reduce the incentives for data-driven businesses to emerge, grow and innovate in the EU today, but numerous opportunities lie ahead. A large part of the data of the future will come from industrial and professional applications, areas of public interest or internet-of-things applications in everyday life, areas where the EU is strong.

Competitors such as China and the US are already innovating quickly and projecting their concepts of data access and use across the globe. In the US, the organisation of the data space is left to the private sector, with considerable concentration effects. China has a combination of government surveillance with a strong control of Big Tech companies over massive amounts of data without sufficient safeguards for individuals.

The Commission has already taken a number of steps since 2014. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) the EU created a solid framework for digital trust. Other initiatives that have fostered the development of the data economy are the Regulation on the free flow of non-personal data (FFD) , the Cybersecurity Act (CSA), and the Open Data Directive.

"New decentralized digital technologies such as blockchain offer a further possibility for both individuals and companies to manage data flows and usage, based on individual free choice and self-determination. Such technologies will make dynamic data portability in real time possible for individuals and companies, along with various compensation models".

A European strategy for data, 2020

The objective of the European data strategy is to make sure the EU becomes a role model and a leader for a society empowered by data. For this, it aims at setting up a true European data space, a single market for data, to unlock unused data, allowing it to flow freely within the European Union and across sectors for the benefit of businesses, researchers and public administrations. Citizens, businesses and organisations should be empowered to make better decisions based on insights gleaned from non-personal data. That data should be available to all, whether public or private, start-up or giant.

Data is at the core of digital transformation. It shapes the way we produce, consume and live. Access to ever-growing volume of data and the ability to use it are essential for innovation and growth. Data-driven innovation can bring major and concrete benefits to the citizens – through, for example, personalised medicine or improved mobility – and to the European economy, from enabling better policymaking to upgrading public services. If you want to learn more, you can read the whitepaper here.

A Single Data Marketplace

The EU will create a single market for data where:

  • Data can flow within the EU and across sectors, for the benefit of all.
  • European rules, in particular privacy and data protection, as well as competition law, are fully respected.
  • The rules for access and use of data are fair, practical and clear.

Examples of industrial and commercial data use:

  • jet engines filled with thousands of sensors collect and transmit data back to ensure efficient operation
  • wind farms use industrial data to reduce visual impact and optimise wind power
  • real-time traffic avoidance navigation can save up to 730 million hours. This represents up to €20 billion in labour costs
  • real-time notification of delayed trains can save 27 million working hours. This amounts to €740 million in labour costs

Video: Jennifer Zhu Scott - Why you should get paid for your data

The EU will become an attractive, secure and dynamic data economy by

  • setting clear and fair rules on access and re-use of data;
  • investing in next generation standards, tools and infrastructures to store and process data;
  • joining forces in European cloud capacity;
  • pooling European data in key sectors, with EU-wide common and interoperable data spaces;
  • giving users rights, tools and skills to stay in full control of their data;

Data strategy: The aim of the strategy is to create a genuine single market for data, where personal and non-personal data, including confidential and sensitive data, are secure and where businesses and the public sector have easy access to huge amounts of high quality data to create and innovate. European data space to unlock unused data, allowing it to flow freely within the European Union and across sectors. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the EU has laid down a solid basis for a human-centric data economy by ensuring that individuals remain in full control of their data.

Data interoperability within and across sectors; facilitate the access to and reuse of sensitive data such as health or social data for scientific research purposes (including for AI), in compliance with data protection legislation; help people make their data available for the common good for researchers to innovate for the benefit of society.

The Commission envisages to propose a ‘Data Act’ to look at different types of data sharing scenarios and ways to empower individuals so that they become more involved in the data economy. It will also present later this year further measures, such as a Digital Services Act to establish clear rules for all businesses to access the Single Market, to strengthen the responsibility of online platforms and to protect fundamental rights. Some of its actions will be:

  1. Establish the right regulatory framework regarding data governance, access and reuse between businesses, between businesses and government, and within administrations. This entails creating incentives for data sharing.
  2. The Commission aims at supporting the development of the technological systems and the next generation of infrastructures, which will enable the EU and all the actors to grasp the opportunities of the data economy. It will contribute to investments in European High Impact projects on European data spaces and trustworthy and energy efficient cloud infrastructures.
  3. Finally, it will launch sectoral specific actions, to build European data spaces in for instance industrial manufacturing, the green deal, mobility or health.
Blockchain EU Funded Projects

Data Spaces

1. Common European industrial (manufacturing) data space

Europe has a strong industrial base, and manufacturing in particular is an area where the generation of and use of data can make a significant difference to the performance and competitiveness of European industry. A 2018 study estimated the potential value of use of non-personal data in manufacturing at € 1,5 trillion by 2027.

2. Common European Green Deal data space

Europe’s Green Deal has set out the ambitious goal for Europe to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Commission’s Communication clearly underlines the importance of data for achieving this goal. A European green data space can exploit the major potential of data in support of the Green Deal priority actions on climate change, circular economy, zero-pollution, biodiversity, deforestation and compliance assurance.

3. Common European mobility data space

Transport and mobility are at the forefront of the debate on data sharing, an area where the EU has many assets. This concerns the automotive sector, where connected cars critically depend on data, as well as other transport modes. Digitization and data in all modes of transport and in logistics will be an essential component of further work on the ‘European Transport System’. This will include actions in all transport sectors as well as for crossmodal data sharing logistics and passengers ecosystems. Digitalization and data play an increasing role in supporting transport sustainability.

Data spaces will also be built for the industries of Health, Finance, Energy, Agriculture & others.

European Open Science Cloud

In addition to the creation of nine Common European data spaces, work will continue on the European Open Science Cloud, which provides seamless access and reliable re-use of research data to European researchers, innovators, companies and citizens through a trusted and open distributed data environment and related services. The European Open Science Cloud is therefore the basis for a science, research and innovation data space that will bring together data resulting from research and deployment programmes and will be connected and fully articulated with the sectoral data spaces.

Projected figures 2025

2025 Numbers
4-6 billion investments Eu

Facial Recognition

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition can take different forms. It can be used for user authentication i.e. to unlock a smartphone or for verification/ authentication at border crossings to check a person’s identity against his/her travel documents (one-to-one matching). Facial recognition could also be used for remote biometric identification, where an image of a person is checked against a database (one-to-many matching). This is the most intrusive form of facial recognition and in principle prohibited in the EU.

Will the EU regulate facial recognition for remote identification?

The gathering and use of biometric data for remote identification purposes carries specific risks for fundamental rights. EU data protection rules already prohibit in principle the processing of biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person, except under specific conditions. Specifically, remote biometric identification can only take place for reasons of substantial public interest. It must be based on EU or national law, the use has to be duly justified, proportionate and subject to adequate safeguards. Hence, allowing facial recognition is currently the exception. With the AI White Paper, the Commission wants to launch a broad debate on which circumstances might justify exceptions in the future, if any.

While today, the use of facial recognition for remote biometric identification is generally prohibited and can only be used in exceptional, duly justified and proportionate cases, subject to safeguards and based of EU or national law, the Commission wants to launch a broad debate about which circumstances, if any, might justify such exceptions. It wants to ensure that data sets will be unbiased and will require high-risk AI systems to be transparent, traceable and under human control.

Press conference by Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Breton on the Commission’s new strategy: Shaping Europe’s Digital Future

Blockchain

The European Commission has a holistic approach to blockchain technologies and DLT, which aims at positioning Europe at the forefront of blockchain innovation and uptake. In this rapidly evolving context, the EU relies on the following main initiatives to enable globally inclusive governance, reinforce cooperation and investments in deploying blockchain/DLT based applications, support international standard setting and facilitate dialogue between industry stakeholders and regulators, notably for a regulatory framework, that builds on the EU acquis.

In 2020, EBSI will deploy a network of distributed blockchain nodes across Europe, supporting applications focused on selected use cases.

In December 2019, the European Commission started an open market consultation in preparation of the European Blockchain Pre-Commercial Procurement that is looking for novel, improved blockchain solutions for the future evolution of the European Blockchain Service Infrastructure.

"In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology. Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and Member States to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust and the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services and companies. The Digital Partnership enables Member States to work together with the European Commission to turn the enormous potential of blockchain technology into better services for citizens."

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society,

Public-Private Partnership (INATBA)

Public-private cooperation is essential to progress and ensure uptake. Officially launched on 3rd April 2019, the International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA) is a multi-stakeholder organisation based in Brussels. It brings together suppliers and users of Distributed Ledger Technologies with representatives of governmental organisations and standard setting bodies from all over the world.

Legal certainty is a success factor for business to operate across the single market. ‘Study on Blockchains: Legal, Governance and Interoperability Aspects’ has been launched to examine legal and regulatory aspects and socio-economic impacts of blockchain-inspired technologies.

The European Commission currently sees two areas related to blockchain which could benefit from improved legal certainty:

  • Smart contracts:  The European Commission will study whether the current legal framework is sufficiently clear to ensure the enforceability of smart contracts and clarify jurisdiction in case of legal disputes.
  • Tokenisation: The European Commission will study whether the current legal framework is appropriate for issuing and trading tokens (i.e.: crypto assets), when they are not considered as financial instruments.

Some INATBA members are: Algorand, Ambrosus, Cardano, Consensys, Crypto Valley, Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), IOTA, Ledger, Lisk, LTO, Maker, Ontology, Ripple, R3 Corda, Quant, Unibright, Vechain and others. Also IBM, Fujitsu, L’Oreal, Siemens & Swift.

The European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI)

The European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) is a joint initiative from the European Commission and the European Blockchain Partnership (EBP) to deliver EU-wide cross-border public services using blockchain technology. The EBSI will be materialised as a network of distributed nodes across Europe (the blockchain), leveraging an increasing number of applications focused on specific use cases. In 2020, EBSI will become a CEF Building Block, providing reusable software, specifications and services to support adoption by EU institutions and European public administrations.

The 2019 EBSI use cases

From requesting a digital copy of your diploma, notarize documents, to creating a decentralized identifier to use digital public services: the EBSI leverages blockchain technologies to offer these services to European citizens. The services can be tested here.

Through the European Self-Sovereign Identity citizens will be able to create a Decentralized Identifier (DID) which will be issued by the government and access their wallet. The diplomas management will enable citizens to verify their bachelor/master degrees and easily use them to apply to a course etc. The identification and verification of any document will be easier through the use of blockchain technology.

Eu Blockchain Use-cases

Crypto projects about Data & AI

Personally, I believe two projects that can help with the secure decentralization of data & AI are Ocean Protocol and SingularityNet. Both are open-source protocols. Ocean Protocol aims to create decentralized and secure data sharing marketplaces while SingularityNet will create a decentralized marketplace where developers can share and monetize their AI algorithms & software code. It is still unclear if the EU or governments worldwide will use these decentralized protocols or if they will build their own blockchains. Ocean already has partnerships with big companies and governments worldwide.

“Aritificial Intelligence is currently used for selling, spying, killing and gambling. Advertising, military, surveillance & stock market trading.”

The decentralization of AI is important. In the video below, Dr. Ben Goertzel, SingularityNet founder & CEO, talks about data, AI and decentralized open-source projects that use blockchain technology:

Conclusion

In a few words, the European Union is set to enable data sharing and will try to tackle the big tech monopoly. This data will help the development and improvement of AI. Blockchain will power the creation of digital IDs and the verification of official documents for each citizen with speed, safety and ease.

The question remaining is if all these transitions will be successful and if the sharing of data and the digitalization of infrastructure will be successful or if it could transform into surveillance under the hands of corrupt governments. Even if it is successful now, who can guarantee what will happen in the next 5, 10 or 15 years with the infrastructure we’re building. The EU seems to be taking into consideration though the importance of individual freedom. This secure sharing of data may be better than having big data held by Amazon and Google.

One thing is for sure, blockchain technology has proven its worth and shows that open-source communities can rival the trillion dollar tech giants. Maybe the most important lesson the EU can learn from blockchain communities is the importance of freedom, security and privacy.

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