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Estonia to invest €85M in boosting AI uptake across public, private sectors

Kratitreff is an event focused on discussing the development of the field of AI and data in Estonia.
Kratitreff is an event focused on discussing the development of the field of AI and data in Estonia. Source: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

An action plan drawn up by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications envisions Estonian society reaching the point where artificial intelligence-based solutions are in broad use in both the public and private sectors by the year 2030 – and the state putting €85 million over the coming years toward making this plan a reality.

The White Paper on Data and Artificial Intelligence sets targets for the years 2024-2030 and consists of a range of ideas. It is by no means a final document, however, as the ministry is still awaiting feedback on it.

Minister of Economic Affairs and IT Tiit Riisalo (Eesti 200) has recently been promoting his party's personal services (personaalriik) concept, the development of which he believes would merit borrowing a couple of hundred of euros.

Regarding the development of the AI field, he also noted that a robust data economy is a prerequisite for the development of personal services and will help both cut back on red tape as well as save money.

The white paper puts forth the vision of Estonia becoming a country with a leading data economy and quality public administration through the valorization and smart use of data.

This will require contributions in areas including data-driven public administration and economy, an AI-powered state and society as well as reliable and human-centric AI and data management.

Administrative burden to be cut by more than two-thirds

The white paper envisages that by 2030, the country's data economy should operate in such a way that it would be possible for public and private-sector organizations to sell, exchange and reuse their data. To this end, all public sector organizations will draw up long-term data and AI strategies and action plans, while money will also be ensured for their implementation as well.

By 2030, citizens' administrative burdens should be slashed by 70 percent compared with last year, with the reduction stemming from data requested from an individual once being able to be reused repeatedly. A state data architect will be appointed to achieve this, who would comprehensively manage the public sector's data assets – i.e. serve as chief data officer (CDO).

In research and development (R&D) and education, the goal is to incorporate data management education at all levels from basic school through higher education. To achieve this, the document provides for the expansion of data science and management in vocational training and higher education, but also in continuing education as well.

The document likewise addresses the real economy and cites that by the year 2030, the state should only have to request businesses for data once, and then reuse it securely and using means that can be traced by the data owner. Communication between the state and businesses should be automatic and should not be burdensome.

In order to achieve these results, the white paper envisages, among other things, the development of centralized data-driven tools using data collected by the state, citing a sustainability tool and a viability tool as examples.

In the AI-powered state and society chapter, the document highlights the goal that everything involving the public sector could be done with the help of a network of AI-based solutions and chatbots.

Estonia's ministries are being tasked with appointing a dedicated person responsible for the sector by next year already, and all public sector organizations will have to draw up an AI implementation plan as well as outline how to implement it.

The state's plans cover the private sector as well, setting a target of 75 percent of it having implemented AI in order to increase value added by 2030. Moreover, the white paper foresees that by this time, Estonian companies themselves will be developing and exporting the world's best AI solutions. Tools should likewise be in place by then allowing for the Estonian language to be easily integrated into the development of AI applications.

By 2030, Estonia should also be home to at least three top-level research centers in the field of AI.

The Estonian state has had other AI strategies in the past as well. The strategy for the years 2019-2021 had a budget of around €10 million and at the time saw the launch of the earliest projects; later, the budget for the 2022-2023 strategy had already doubled to €20 million.

The White Paper on Data and Artificial Intelligence 2024-2030 was drawn up in cooperation between the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education and Research and the Government Office.

The white paper also provides metrics for evaluating all of the proposed objectives.

The AI strategy accompanying the white paper notes that the Estonian state should contribute at least €85 million between the years 2024-2026 toward its implementation.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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