The Government Delegation to the EU hosted a discussion forum on future European legislation on artificial intelligence (AI), which is expected to be agreed in the coming weeks, and the need to set limits on a global scale. Under the title “The Artificial Intelligence Act: Solutions for a global challenge”, the event featured a keynote speech by Gina Tost i Faus, Secretary for Digital Policies of the Government of Catalonia, as well as speeches by representatives of European institutions and other key organisations in the sector. The Government of Catalonia delegate to the European Union, Ignasi Centelles Santana, was in charge of opening the conference.
Tost first highlighted the Catalan Government’s firm commitment to boosting the digital economy, with an ambitious strategy to promote the development and adoption of advanced digital technologies, with the aim of making Catalonia one of the world’s leading digital hubs. In this respect, she gave as an example the Artificial Intelligence Strategy of Catalonia, Catalonia.AI, the multi-sector, cross-cutting, people-centred strategic plan approved by the Catalan Government in 2020 to promote the development, use and adoption of reliable, responsible and sustainable AI that contributes to improving the competitiveness of companies and the well-being of citizens and that “aims to position Catalonia as a leader in the use and development of AI technologies in the public and private sectors”.
On future European AI legislation, which she said would be a “benchmark for global cooperation to address the challenges arising from this technology”, Tost emphasised that regulation and innovation need not be in conflict. “We are taking on a new challenge, but if one thing must be clear, it is that innovation and regulation are not polar opposites but compatible for the security of citizens. As a government, it is clear to us: digital rights come first. Always”, she said.
Debate with major players
The event was attended by leading experts and decision-makers in the field of AI.Ella Jakubowska, Senior Policy Adviser at European Digital Rights, highlighted the need to protect human rights in AI regulation in order to build trust in such technology. Sergey Lagodinsky, Member of the European Parliament, said that “we cannot say that the only option for the European technology sector is for it to be the Wild West. We have to strike a balance, because there are people who are concerned about the effects we are seeing from AI”.
According to Tony Vanderstraete, Head of Digital Strategy and Transformation at the Flanders Digital Agency, these rules regarding AI “must be clear. Everyone is waiting, both society and governments, but also business”. In the case of Jeremy Rollison, Head of European Affairs at Microsoft, he stressed the importance of interoperability of standards and the role of technology in economic growth. In this regard, he emphasised responsible AI standards and the challenges of transparency in generative AI and advocated a risk-based approach with security mechanisms.