The big picture: The EU wants to kick off a "generational project" that will reduce its dependence on companies outside the region for digital products. The proposals include several key areas that need improvement, but have yet to include any specific solutions, which will be subject for public debate throughout 2020.
The EU has revealed its new digital market policy, which is going to have wide-ranging implications for tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, as well as other companies that gather large amounts of user data to feed it to AIs.
The plan outlines how the bloc intends to catch up to the rest of the world by ensuring data protection for EU citizens, designing rules on how to deploy 5G and WiFi 6 infrastructure, and creating a level playing field for all the participants on the market.
Digital transformation is going much slower in the EU when compared to Asia and the US, so one of the proposals is to create what Commission President Ursula von der Leyen calls "a Europe fit for the Digital Age."
This means the 27 member countries need to pool together their data sets to fast-track the development of intelligent services for consumers and help local companies compete with those in China and the US. For that to happen, the bloc will have to agree on a regulatory framework that covers data governance, reuse, portability, and sharing with law enforcement.
Artificial intelligence is slowly being infused into every industry thanks to advancements that make it easy to deploy on everything from data centers to low power devices. The EU wants to offer incentives to startups that use machine learning to tackle important areas like manufacturing, transportation, policing, healthcare, and achieving a climate-neutral Europe by 2050.
At the same time, the EU wants AI development to be done on its own terms, by balancing safety and innovation. The bloc also hopes to set an example with rules that put humans in charge of AIs used in high-risk applications like facial recognition, job recruitment, and policing, while requiring a certification for companies interested in providing AI-based services.
The European Commission sees GDPR as a major win in setting the tone for a global conversation on protecting user data. Now it wants to do the same with AI regulation, which is not impossible when you consider that some industry leaders like Elon Musk support that idea.
Ultimately, the EU faces a difficult road ahead as it tries to execute on its promise to give local companies an advantage, as well as a potential trade war with the US. The bloc has been fining American tech giants for antitrust violations, and is also exploring the idea of holding big social platforms legally responsible for user-generated content.
EU industry chief Thierry Breton said in a public statement that "the battle for industrial data starts now and Europe will be the main battlefield. Europe has the largest industrial base. The winners of today will not be the winners of tomorrow."