Pekka Ala-Pietilä, Chair of Finland’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Programme reveals that Finland aims to be a leading country in the application of AI
Already, artificial intelligence (AI) is so commonplace that we hardly notice it. At the same time, it is so vital that it would be difficult for us to manage our daily lives without it. In the next few years and decades, its impact will continue to grow – for individuals, companies and the entire society.
Artificial intelligence is the new electricity. Electrification fundamentally changed society: it made everyday chores easier, influenced companies’ competitiveness, made it possible to offer new kinds of public services and replaced some human labour.
The effects of AI will be similar. Working life will never be the same again, as AI will take over many tasks. Few jobs will disappear entirely, though. For the most part, AI will serve people as assistive tools.
Finnish AI programme: the race to be among the forerunners
According to a study by Accenture (1), Finland has the second greatest potential of benefitting from AI as a nation, only preceded by the USA. This is because of our country’s capital goods-intensive economic structure, high level of education and the advanced digitalisation and considerable data resources of the public sector.
Now is the time to purposefully set out and become a forerunner in the utilisation of AI. We are not late, but there is no time to waste. This is the goal set by Minister of Economic Affairs, Mika Lintilä, when he founded the AI programme in May 2017: Finland is to be a leading country in the application of AI.
As a result of our network-based work, we specified eight key questions which will help us to take Finland successfully into the age of artificial intelligence. We have already made progress with many of these issues, but all of them need an extra boost.
How can we enhance the competitiveness of businesses through the use of AI?
We will create internationally competitive, business-driven innovation ecosystems for sectors that are advantageous for the utilisation of AI, such as energy, healthcare, transport and industry, as well as promising emerging sectors. On the other hand, companies in their early stages must be activated and concrete support must be offered to help get them started. In the AI Growth Group currently being established, companies encourage and stimulate each other in applying AI.
How can we utilise data effectively in all sectors?
We must make sure that Finnish data resources are enriched. At the same time, we must make the accumulation of citizens’ so-called MyData possible and also offer them opportunities to take advantage of it. The work launched by The Finnish Government to create a comprehensive information policy promotes these goals.
How can we ensure quick and easy adoption of AI?
A new AI Accelerator programme is being created to give companies, universities and research institutes the opportunity to work together to advance quickly in this field and to test how AI works in various situations.
How do we ensure top-level expertise and attract top experts?
We must ensure excellent competence in applying AI at all levels of education. Working peoples’ skills must be updated so that they have the ability to use AI tools. Additionally, Finland must attract AI experts from the rest of the world. The new Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence (FCAI) was established to serve the needs of top AI research.
How do we make bold decisions and investments?
Finland must use its limited resources wisely and allocate them boldly. The steering group of the programme proposes an investment of €100 million in research and innovation projects that support the advancement of AI in 2019 and another €100 million in 2020.
How do we build the world’s best public services?
AI makes it possible to disconnect public services from time and place and to target them at citizens based on their life events and at companies based on their business events. The citizens’ virtual assistant Aurora, which is currently under development, will be a network of bots designed to meet these needs.
How do we establish new models of collaboration?
Difficult ideas are often located on the fringes of areas of responsibility or just outside them. When this is the case, you have to open-mindedly agree on new ways to proceed together into areas where no one has yet been.
How do we make Finland a forerunner in AI?
Successful utilisation of AI is a vital issue for Europe. Finland is participating in leading the changes on the European and international forums where AI is being promoted.
The work continues
In addition to the promotion of the above-described aims, the programme will continue to work with other themes, in particular, the labour market and working life, ethical questions and security. The work on the Finnish AI programme continues at www.tekoalyaika.fi.
1 Purdy, Mark & Daugherty, Paul (2016) Why artificial intelligence is the future of growth. www.accenture.com/lv-en/_acnmedia/PDF-33/Accenture-Why-AI-is-the-Future-of-Growth.pdf
Chair of Finland’s Artificial Intelligence Programme