EU president Europe leads in citizen’s digital rights.

EU president Europe leads in citizen’s digital rights.

Europeans Leading the Global Framework for AI: Ursula von der Leyen’s Vision

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

In her State of the Union address in Strasbourg, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, declared that Europeans have become “pioneers in online rights” and are now determined to take the lead in establishing a global framework for artificial intelligence (AI). Her speech celebrated the achievements of her three-year tenure, with a particular focus on her tech policies. Von der Leyen unveiled the EU’s digital plans, showcasing their progress and ambitions in various domains, including semiconductors, clean tech, digital projects, and digital safety.

One of the highlights was the EU’s efforts towards semiconductor self-sufficiency, centered around the Chips Act. This legislation, backed by €43 billion of funding, aims to double the EU’s market share in semiconductors to at least 20% by 2030. Von der Leyen praised the bloc’s work in this area, recognizing the significance of semiconductors for digital transformation and technological advancement.

The President also boasted about the EU’s clean tech industry, as well as the digital projects within the NextGenerationEU initiative, which serves as a COVID-19 recovery plan. However, von der Leyen’s most significant accomplishment in the digital realm has been the EU’s role as a global pioneer in managing the risks of the digital world, much to the chagrin of Silicon Valley.

Under her leadership, the EU has become the most formidable regulator of technology worldwide. Stringent laws on privacy, tax avoidance, antitrust, and online content have resulted in hefty fines for major US companies. Von der Leyen warned that more regulations are on the horizon, citing disinformation, data exploitation, and “harmful content” as factors that have eroded public trust and violated citizens’ rights.

To support her claims about the EU’s leadership in digital rights, von der Leyen cited two recent regulations: the Digital Services Act (DSA), which imposes rules on content moderation, and the Digital Market Act (DMA), which aims to curb the dominance of big tech companies. However, her future focus lies in the field of artificial intelligence.

“We need an open dialogue with those that develop and deploy AI,” von der Leyen emphasized.

In recent months, concerns regarding AI causing job losses, discrimination, surveillance, and even existential threats have mounted. In response, the EU is set to adopt the AI Act, the first-ever comprehensive legislation for AI technology. Von der Leyen described this act as “a blueprint for the whole world” and outlined the three pillars on which its global framework for AI would be built: guardrails, governance, and guiding innovation.

The AI Act will provide the main guardrails, setting regulations and standards for ethical and safe use of AI. For governance, von der Leyen proposed the establishment of a global panel comprising scientists, tech companies, and independent experts. Their role would be to inform policymakers about emerging developments in the field and guide policy decisions.

To promote innovation, von der Leyen announced a project that will enable AI startups to train their models on the EU’s high-performance computers. However, concerns have been raised by some of Europe’s largest companies, arguing that the AI Act may hinder innovation and jeopardize business prospects. Recognizing the importance of collaboration with the private sector, von der Leyen called for open dialogue with AI developers and deployers, citing the United States as an example where major tech companies have already agreed to voluntary rules on safety, security, and trust.

To realize her vision, von der Leyen believes that all these efforts should culminate in the establishment of minimum global standards for the safe and ethical use of AI. Her ambition resonates with the EU’s determination to lead and shape the future of technology, not only within their own borders but also on a global scale. As Europeans become pioneers in online rights, they now seek to pioneer a new era of AI regulation, setting the standards for the responsible and beneficial utilization of this transformative technology.

European Commission AI Act