In July 2019, an expert group led by Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Government Office presented Estonia’s national AI strategy (Estonia, 2019a); the report of Estonia's AI Taskforce on which the strategy builds is available here (Estonia, 2019b). Estonia’s strategy provides a comprehensive overview of both existing and proposed policy measures, along with their objectives, deadlines and budget estimations. The objective of the strategy is to fully harness the potential of artificial intelligence by developing and implementing policy measures in the following areas:
- Encouraging the use and development of AI applications in both the public and private sector;
- Providing direct support to research in AI and increasing the relevant skills and competences to do so;
- Developing a legal environment to facilitate the uptake of AI.
As per funding, the Estonian government estimates an investment of at least €10 million euros in 2019-2021 for the implementation of its AI strategy.
Estonia’s strategy foresees several reforms to the formal education and training systems in order to increase skills and competences in AI. Reforms at the level of preschool, primary and secondary education will be primarily covered through an upgrade of the ProgeTiger program, which offers technology and AI-related curriculums to schools. Reforms to the higher education will include the uptake of Master programs in the field of data science and AI (a procurement process was concluded in June 2019 and in autumn 2020 the first students will be admitted to the course at the University of Tartu), the promotion of elective courses on AI in postgraduate disciplines (including also non-ICT disciplines), and the increase of PhD scholarships in AI-related fields. The Innovation Centre of the Information Technology Foundation for Education (HITSA) also offers digital learning resources for vocational training and lifelong learning. Additional further education trainings are in preparation and include among others online courses for citizens to raise the public awareness of AI, training courses in AI for managers in the public sector, and a training program targeting employees of companies developing AI solutions. In addition, an Estonian language version of Elements of AI has been launched by TalTech in November 2019. The importance of providing a digital focus on lifelong learning was already anticipated in the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 published in 2014.
From the lab to the market
To foster AI developments, the Estonian foresees to increase the capacity of AI research. This is achieved by developing AI-related research support measures and by increasing the capacity and awareness of funding opportunities. The uptake and development of AI in the private sector will be supported through existing funding measures such as innovation vouchers, development vouchers and product development grants. Other existing policies, such as the Technology Competence Centre (TCC) and in particular the Competence Centre Specialised in Machine Learning and Data Science (STACC) are providing support measures for companies to develop innovative AI products and services. In addition, the Estonian government is preparing an innovation competition to promote AI developments based on governmental datasets. Another funding scheme provides financial support to pilot projects at various levels of their technology readiness. These instruments will be complemented with new funding measures to foster the digitalisation of companies (including AI) across selected economic sectors. Flexible and sufficient funding opportunities for AI uptake in the public sector has been earmarked through Structural Funds, joint procurements and new upcoming funding measures. Lastly, sandboxes are currently developed to foster testing and developing AI applications in the public sector.
To improve networking and collaboration opportunities, the Estonian government is developing a policy tool to monitor available technology developments on the market and to liaise companies with R&D institutions. Another networking policy that is considered is the establishment of Digital Innovation Hubs in AI. These hubs will be used to systematically raise awareness on AI in Estonia. Dissemination and uptake of AI is also targeted in the public sector through among others the identification of use-cases, the organisation of meetings, conferences and a website to share experiences and good practices.
One of the actions of the AI strategy to foster public and private sector cooperation is ordering and making available AI core components, which can then be further trained by the subsequent institutions on the basis of their data and needs. The first such core component was made available through a public sector code repository in autumn 2019. A company called Texta concluded a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications to offer a free open-source text and data analysis software to all state authorities.
With respect to regulation, the Estonian strategy foresees amendments to the legislation to facilitate the development and uptake of AI. A draft for submission to the parliament is expected to be ready in 2020. In addition, the Estonian government released voluntary procurement guidelines (language: Estonian) that aim to give an overview of the most common issues as well as possible solutions that could be considered in a data science project. Finally, the Estonian government is currently working on a self-assessment questionnaire for developers of AI that is based on the Assessment List accompanying the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI.
The Estonian strategy devotes salient attention to data infrastructure policies. It includes data governance tools, instruments to increase the availability and responsible use of data, the creation of a Chief Data Officer in various - and potentially all - ministries, the compilation of data catalogues/sharing platforms, and the provision of funding for data audits. Recommendations for an Open Science Policy in 2016 will be further developed into cost- effective solutions for implementing Open Science principles on a national level. In addition, Estonia joined the EuroHPC project to enjoy the benefits of supercomputing.
A working group will be set up to monitor the implementation of this action plan, to initiate additional policy initiatives if necessary and to start the preparation of Estonia's long-term AI strategy for 2022.
Estonia (2019a). Estonia’s national artificial intelligence strategy 2019-2021. Government of the Republic of Estonia. https://f98cc689-5814-47ec-86b3-db505a7c3978.filesusr.com/ugd/7df26f_27a618cb80a648c38be427194affa2f3.pdf
Estonia (2019b). Report of Estonia’s AI Taskforce. Government Office and Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. https://f98cc689-5814-47ec-86b3-db505a7c3978.filesusr.com/ugd/7df26f_486454c9f32340b28206e140350159cf.pdf
AI Watch is the European Commission knowledge service to monitor the development, uptake and impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Europe, launched in December 2018.
The OECD AI Policy Observatory (OECD.AI) is an inclusive hub for public policy on AI. It aims to help countries encourage, nurture and monitor the responsible development of trustworthy AI systems for the benefit of society.
Last update: 05-Aug-2020