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National AI strategy for 2019-2021 gets a kick-off

This past summer Estonia published an expert report on how to advance AI in public and private sector; we also discussed it in an e-Talk with Government CIO Siim Sikkut. The proposals made in the report have now been formed into a national artificial intelligence strategy for 2019-2021. In the strategy, the government takes a leading role in accelerating and supporting the use of AI-based applications in the public and private sector alike. The Estonian government will be investing at least 10M euros over the course of 2019-2021 to implement the strategy.

Action items

According to Siim Sikkut, the national AI strategy relies on four pillars: boosting AI in the government, AI in economy, skills along with research and development, and the legal environment. “As part of national AI plan, we are bringing a government-as-platform approach to boost uptake of AI in both public sector and wider economy,” said Sikkut.

The strategy outlines specific action items across different fields from data governance and open data related activities to supporting specific projects and skill development. Planned activities include, for example, a public e-course to raise awareness about AI, along with creating sandboxes for testing public sector AI applications. The private sector will have the opportunity to use designated innovation and development grants for developing machine learning based solutions. Additionally, education and research is also in focus, with support for a new Master’s curriculum at the University of Tartu as well as interdisciplinary collaboration between IT and other educational programmes.

Practical value

The first component for AI-based applications has already landed in the state’s public code repository. It’s a text analysis tool that helps increase effectiveness of work processes and aids in the automation of some routine activities. The code in the state’s repository is free to use and develop further to private and public entities alike.

Currently, we already have a little over 20 use cases live in the public sector that rely on machine learning. For example, predictive analytics is used to decide where to send police forces for traffic regulation. Or the Information System Authority uses machine learning to detect anomalies in the traffic that runs through the data exchange layer the X-Road. The goal is to aim for 50 use cases live in the public sector by 2020.

The Government CIO Office at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications is in charge of steering the national AI strategy. Contact: kratt@mkm.ee.

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