15 June, 2020

European Commission's White Paper on Artificial Intelligence - A European approach to excellence and trust (ETNO position paper)

ETNO welcomes the publication of the European Commission’s White Paper on “Artificial Intelligence – A European approach to excellence and trust” (the “White Paper”), a key pillar of the Commission’s digital strategy for the next five years.

The European telecommunications industry will be a key enabler of the future AI ecosystems.  5G and fibre connectivity will accelerate the digitisation of services and industrial processes, enabling the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT). The massive amounts of data generated by IoT connections and devices will open up new growth opportunities for data analytics and AI services in Europe.  High-class, secure connectivity will then drive IoT, and IoT will in turn fuel European AI. Together, they can form a truly powerful virtuous circle that our industry is committed to nurturing. Digital network providers themselves increasingly deploy AI solutions in various areas, typically to improve efficiency in network operations (e.g., network security and predictive maintenance), to enhance customer experience, and for better product and service development.

We welcome the two-fold approach described in the White Paper, which aims at fostering the uptake of AI technologies and products in Europe as part of an “ecosystem of excellence”, while ensuring their compliance with European ethical norms, legal requirements and fundamental rights that together form an ‘‘ecosystem of trust’’[1]. These two elements are mutually supportive, as long as new requirements to build a culture of trustworthy AI are proportionate to the objective of establishing European excellence.

The overarching goal of the European AI strategy should be to pursue a coordinated approach to AI across the EU, bolstering the Union’s capacity to keep pace and remain competitive with other regions of the world in the development and deployment of AI applications. Divergent national requirements that raise barriers to the development and the uptake of AI technology across the single market should be avoided. When defining new rules, it is equally important to consider the whole AI value chain in order to target in the first place those segments that are most suitable to bear responsibility in line with the “polluter pays principle”.

Whereas we largely commend the overarching vision outlined in the White Paper, we would like to offer our recommendations to further strengthen the promotion of a trustworthy AI as a competitive advantage and investment incentives in Europe.

[1] ETNO’s contribution to the “Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence’’ is available at https://www.etno.eu/library/389-etno-response-to-the-stakeholders-consultation-on-draft-ai-ethics-guidelines.html.

© ETNO 2021
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