Digital policy chief says AI and industrial data offer Europe a “second chance” at tech leadership

Digital policy chief says AI and industrial data offer Europe a “second chance” at tech leadership
Digital sovereignty

Europe’s digital policy chief Margrethe Vestager says Europe has a “second chance” to compete with tech sectors in the US and China, by using artificial intelligence (AI) to leverage big data from Europe’s largest companies, according to Politico

“One of the reasons why we don’t have a Facebook and we don’t have a Tencent is that we never gave European businesses a full single market where they could scale up,” Vestager told reporters. “Now when we have a second go, the least we can do is to make sure that you have a real single market.”

The statement comes ahead of a new artificial intelligence and data strategy set to be unveiled later this week, and following a European Commission proposal last month to create a single market for data.

The proposal suggested measures such as new rules on cross-border data use, as well as data interoperability and standards for sectors like climate change, agriculture, the auto industry, healthcare, the energy sector, and financial services. 

European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Thierry Breton, has told Reuters that as the “world’s top industrial continent,” the EU wants to collect data from across these various sectors, to develop AI that can benefit the public as well as European startups.

The proposal also called for eliminating competition rules that could prevent data sharing, and implementing new rules to prevent the largest platforms from imposing conditions to access data, or keeping the benefits to themselves. 

“Currently a small number of big tech firms hold a large part of the world’s data. This is a major weakness for data-driven businesses to emerge, grow and innovate today, including in Europe, but huge opportunities lie ahead,” the proposal said. 

The Commission is now considering an investment of up to €6 billion, raised from member countries and industry, to develop infrastructure and incentives to develop large pools of data that can be shared between sectors and companies. 

The new regulations, to be announced Wednesday, are also expected to include rules on transparency and oversight for AI technologies such as facial recognition, requiring human oversight and audits, according to a leaked draft. Companies from outside Europe might be required to retrain their tech using European data sets. 

After the proposals are officially presented on Wednesday, there will be a public comment period of 12 weeks, before the commission presents legislation later this year. 

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