An Overview of National AI Strategies

Tim Dutton is an AI policy researcher based in Canada. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Politics + AI. He writes and edits the articles for the Politics + AI’s Medium page and provides contract work to governments and companies looking to learn about the emerging political risks and opportunities of AI. You can follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

The race to become the global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) has officially begun. In the past fifteen months, Canada, Japan, Singapore, China, the UAE, Finland, Denmark, France, the UK, the EU Commission, South Korea, and India have all released strategies to promote the use and development of AI. No two strategies are alike, with each focusing on different aspects of AI policy: scientific research, talent development, skills and education, public and private sector adoption, ethics and inclusion, standards and regulations, and data and digital infrastructure.

This article summarizes the key policies and goals of each national strategy. It also highlights relevant policies and initiatives that the countries have announced since the release of their initial strategies.

I plan to continuously update this article as new strategies and initiatives are announced. If a country or policy is missing (or if something in the summary is incorrect), please leave a comment and I will update the article as soon as possible.

In the coming weeks, I will also write an article for each country, providing a deep-dive into AI policy in each country. Once these articles are written, I will include a link to the bottom of each country’s summary.

Table of Contents

    • Australia
    • Canada
    • China
    • Denmark
    • EU Commission
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • India
    • Japan
    • Singapore
    • South Korea
    • UAE
    • United Kingdom
    • United States

Australia

Australia does not yet have an artificial intelligence strategy. However, in the 2018–2019 Australian budget, the government announced a four-year, AU$29.9 million investment to support the development of AI in Australia. The government will create a Technology Roadmap, a Standards Framework, and a national AI Ethics Framework to support the responsible development of AI. The investment will also support Cooperative Research Centre projects, PhD scholarships, and other initiatives to increase the supply of AI talent in Australia. In addition, in the its 2017 innovation roadmap, Australia 2030: Prosperity Through Innovation, the government announced that it will prioritize AI in the government’s forthcoming Digital Economy Strategy. This report is expected to be released in the second half of 2018.

Canada

Prime Minister Trudeau announcing the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy | via MP Raj Grewal News

Canada was the first country to release a national AI strategy. Detailed in the 2017 federal budget, the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy is five-year, C$125 million plan to invest in AI research and talent. The strategy has four goals: (1) increase the number of AI researchers and graduates, (2) establish three clusters of scientific excellence, (3) develop thought leadership on the economic, ethical, policy, and legal implications of AI, and (4) support the national research community on AI. The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research leads the strategy in close partnership with the Canadian government and the three new AI Institutes: the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII) in Edmonton, the Vector Institute in Toronto, and MILA in Montreal.

Canada’s AI strategy is distinct from other strategies because it is primarily a research and talent strategy. It’s initiatives — the new AI Institutes, CIFAR Chairs in AI, and the National AI program — are all geared towards enhancing Canada’s international profile as a leader in AI research and training. The CIFAR AI & Society Program examines the policy and ethical implications of AI, but the overall strategy does not include policies found in other strategies such as investments in strategic sectors, data and privacy, or skills development. That is not to say that the Canadian government does not have these policies in place, but that they are separate from, rather than part of, the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy.

China

China announced its ambition to lead the world in AI theories, technologies, and applications in its July 2017 plan, A Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. The plan is the most comprehensive all national AI strategies, with initiatives and goals for R&D, industrialization, talent development, education and skills acquisition, standard setting and regulations, ethical norms, and security. It is best understood as a three step plan: first, make China’s AI industry “in-line” with competitors by 2020; second, reach “world-leading” in some AI fields by 2025; and third, become the “primary” center for AI innovation by 2030. By 2030, the government aims to cultivate an AI industry worth 1 trillion RMB, with related industries worth 10 trillion RMB. The plan also lays out the government’s intention to recruit the world’s best AI talent, strengthen the training of the domestic AI labour force, and lead the world in laws, regulations, and ethical norms that promote the development of AI. The latter includes the intent to actively participate in and lead the global governance of AI.

Since the release of the Next Generation Plan, the government has published the Three-Year Action Plan to Promote the Development of New-Generation Artificial Intelligence Industry. This plan builds on the first step of the Next Generation plan to bring China’s AI industry in-line with competitors by 2020. Specifically, it advances four major tasks: (1) focus on developing intelligent and networked products such as vehicles, service robots, and identification systems, (2) emphasize the development AI’s support system, including intelligent sensors and neural network chips, (3) encourage the development of intelligent manufacturing, and (4) improve the environment for the development of AI by investing in industry training resources, standard testing, and cybersecurity. In addition, the government has also partnered with national tech companies to develop research and industrial leadership in specific fields of AI and will build a $2.1 billion technology park for AI research in Beijing.

Denmark

Denmark’s Strategy for Denmark’s Digital Growth, released January 2018, aims to make Denmark a leader in the digital revolution and to create growth and wealth for all Danish people. Rather than focusing exclusively on advances in AI, the strategy concentrates on AI, big data, and the Internet of Things. The strategy has three goals: (1) make Danish businesses the best at using digital technologies; (2) have the best conditions in place for the digital transformation of business; and (3) ensure every Dane is equipped with the necessary digital skills to compete. As per funding, a pool of DKK 75 million has been allocated in 2018, followed by DKK 125 million each year until 2025, and DKK 75 million in perpetuity for the implementation of the strategy’s initiatives.

In total, the report outlines 38 new initiatives. Major announcements include the creation of Digital Hub Denmark (a public-private cluster for digital technologies), SME:Digital (a coordinated scheme to support the digital transformation of Danish SMEs), and the Technology Pact (a nationwide initiative to foster digital skills). The government also announced initiatives to further open government data, experiment with regulatory sandboxes, and strengthen cybersecurity.

EU Commission

A timeline for the EU Commission AI strategy | via Tim Dutton

In April 2018, the EU Commission adopted the Communication on Artificial Intelligence: a 20-page document that lays out the EU’s approach to AI. The EU Commission aims to: (1) increase the EU’s technological and industrial capacity and AI uptake by the public and private sectors; (2) prepare Europeans for the socioeconomic changes brought about by AI; and (3) ensure that an appropriate ethical and legal framework is in place. Key initiatives include a commitment to increase the EU’s investment in AI from €500 million in 2017 to €1.5 billion by the end of 2020, the creation of the European AI Alliance (which people can now join), and a new set of AI ethics guidelines to addresses issues such as fairness, safety, and transparency. A new High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence will act as the steering group for the European AI Alliance and will prepare the draft ethics guidelines for member states to consider.

The Commission is now working with member states to develop a coordinated plan on AI by the end of 2018. The goal of the forthcoming plan will be to “maximize the impact of investments at EU and national levels, encourage synergies and cooperation across the EU, exchange best practices and collectively define the way forward to ensure that the EU as a whole can compete globally.”

Finland

In May 2017, Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä appointed a steering group to examine how Finland can become one of the world’s top countries at the application of AI technologies. Though the group will not release its final report until April 2019, it has already released two interim reports and the Finnish government has begun to incorporate the group’s recommendations into government policy. The first report, Finland’s Age of Artificial Intelligence, surveyed Finland’s strengths and weaknesses in AI and provided eight recommendations to turn Finland into a global leader in the application of AI. Key initiative included the creation of the Finnish Centre for AI (a joint partnership by Aalto and Helsinki Universities to increase AI research, talent, and industry collaboration), an AI accelerator pilot program, and the integration of AI in the public service. A second interim report, Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, gives an additional 28 policy recommendations related to four aspects of the future of work: growth and employment; labour market; learning and skills; and ethics.

France

President Emmanuel Macron unveiled France’s €1.5 billion plan to transform France into a global leader in AI research, training, and industry at the end of the AI for Humanity Summit in Paris. The plan draws heavily from the report, For a Meaningful Artificial Intelligence: Towards a French and European Strategy, in which Cédric Villani, France’s famed mathematician and Deputy for the Essonne, and the other members of the “Villani Mission” outlined a number of policies and initiatives for the government to consider.

The plan consists of four components. First, Macron announced several initiatives to strengthen France’s AI ecosystem and attract the international talent. Key among them was the announcement of the National Artificial Intelligence Programme, which will create a network of four or five research institutes across France. Second, France will develop an open data policy to drive the adoption and application of AI in sectors where France already has the potential for AI excellence, such as healthcare. Third, the government will create a regulatory and financial framework to support the development of domestic “AI champions.” Finally, the government will development regulation for ethics to ensure that the use and development of AI is transparent, explainable, and non-discriminatory.

In total, the government will invest €1.5 billion in AI by the end of the current five-year term. Details for the following have not be released, but €700 million will go towards research, €100 million this year to AI startups and companies, €70 million annually through France’s Public Investment Bank, and $400 million to industrial projects in AI. The Villani report recommended focusing on four sectors (healthcare, transportation, environment, and defense), but Macron did not reference this recommendation. Instead, he talked in detail about the potential of AI for healthcare and transportation.

 
President Macron delivering his speech during the AI For Humanity Conference | via Reuters

Germany

Germany plans to release its national AI strategy in fall 2018. It is unclear what will be in the strategy at the moment, but, from the 2018 coalition agreement between the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union, we know that the government is planning on creating a joint AI research center with France and will commission a new task force to provide recommendations on the ethics of algorithms and AI (a similar task force has already released a report on the ethics of autonomous vehicles).

In lieu of an official strategy, Germany already has a number of policies and initiatives in place that amount to a de facto strategy. Principally, the government, in partnership with academia and industry actors, focuses on integrating AI technologies into Germany’s export sectors. The flagship program has been Industry 4.0, but recently the strategic goal has shifted to smart services, which relies more on AI technologies. The German Research Centre for AI (DFKI) is a major actor in this pursuit and provides funding for application oriented basic research. Other relevant organizations include the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which promotes academic cooperation and attracts scientific talent to work in Germany, and the Plattform Lernende Systeme, which brings together experts from science, industry, politics, and civic organizations to develop practical recommendations for the government.

India

India has taken a unique approach to its national AI strategy by focusing on how India can leverage AI not only for economic growth, but also for social inclusion. NITI Aayog, the government think tank that wrote the report, calls this approach #AIforAll. The strategy, as a result, aims to (1) enhance and empower Indians with the skills to find quality jobs; (2) invest in research and sectors that can maximize economic growth and social impact; and (3) scale Indian-made AI solutions to the rest of the developing world.

Proposed integration of COREs and ICTAIs | via NITI Aayog

NITI Aayog provides over 30 policy recommendations to invest in scientific research, encourage reskilling and training, accelerate the adoption of AI across the value chain, and promote ethics, privacy, and security in AI. Its flagship initiative is a two-tiered integrated strategy to boost research in AI. First, new Centres of Research Excellence in AI (COREs) will focus on fundamental research. Second, the COREs will act as technology feeders for the International Centres for Transformational AI (ICTAIs), which will focus on creating AI-based applications in domains of societal importance. In the report, NITI Aayong identifies healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities, and smart mobility as the priority sectors that will benefit the most socially from applying AI. The report also recommends setting up a consortium of Ethics Councils at each CORE and ICTAI, developing sector specific guidelines on privacy, security, and ethics, creating a National AI Marketplace to increase market discovery and reduce time and cost of collecting data, and a number of initiatives to help the overall workforce acquire skills. Strategically, the government wants to establish India as an “AI Garage,” meaning that if a company can deploy an AI in India, it will then be applicable to the rest of the developing world.

Japan

Japan was the second country to develop a national AI strategy. Based on instructions from Prime Minister Abe during the Public-Private Dialogue towards Investment for the Future in April 2016, the Strategic Council for AI Technology was established to develop “research and development goals and a roadmap for the industrialization of artificial intelligence.” The 11-member council had representatives from academia, industry, and government, including the President of Japan’s Society for the Promotion of Science, the President of the University of Tokyo, and the Chairman of Toyota.

Japan’s three-phase development plan for AI | via the Industrialization Roadmap

The plan, the Artificial Intelligence Technology Strategy, was released in March 2017. The strategy is notable for its Industrialization Roadmap, which envisions AI as a service and organizes the development of AI into three phases: (1) the utilization and application of data-driven AI developed in various domains, (2) the public use of AI and data developed across various domains, and (3) the creation of ecosystems built by connecting multiplying domains. The strategy applies this framework to three priority areas of Japan’s Society 5.0initiative— productivity, health, and mobility — and outlines policies to realize the industrialization roadmap. These policies include new investments in R&D, talent, public data, and start-ups.

Singapore

Launched in May 2017, AI Singapore is a five-year, S$150 million national program to enhance Singapore’s capabilities in AI. It is a government-wide partnership involving six different organizations. Its goals are to (1) invest in the next wave of AI research, (2) address major societal and economic challenges, and (3) broaden adoption and use of AI within industry.

 
Overview of Singapore’s AI strategy | via AI Singapore

The program consists of four key initiatives. First, Fundamental AI Research funds scientific research that will contribute to the other pillars of AI Singapore. Second, Grand Challenges supports the work of multi-disciplinary teams that provide innovative solutions to major challenges Singapore and the world faces. Currently the program focuses on health, urban solutions, and finance. Third, 100 Experiments funds scalable AI solutions to industry-identified problems. Finally, AI Apprenticeship is a 9-month structured program to foster a new cohort of AI talent in Singapore.

In June 2018, the government announced three new initiatives on AI governance and ethics. Principally, the new Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data will help the Government develop standards and governance frameworks for the ethics of AI.

South Korea

South Korea’s Sputnik moment came when DeepMind’s AlphaGo defeated Go’s world champion and Korean-native, Lee Sedol. In a six-day tournament in Seoul, watched by over 100 million people around the world, DeepMind’s AI-program AlphaGo bested Lee by a stunning 4 games to 1. Just two days after the competition concluded, South Korea’s government announced a ₩1 trillion investment in AI research over the next five years.

Two years later, the South Korean government has announced a new five year, ₩2.2 trillion investment to strengthen the country’s R&D in AI. The strategy is divided into three parts. First, to secure AI talent, the government will establish six graduate school in AI by 2022 with the goal of training 5,000 AI specialists (1,400 AI researchers and 3,600 data management specialists). The government also announced an initiative to train 600 people in AI to address the immediate short term need for AI talent. The second area of focus is development of AI technology. The government will fund large scale projects in national defence, medicine, and public safety and will start an AI R&D challenge similar to DARPA. Finally, the government will invest in infrastructure to support the development of AI start-ups and SMEs. This includes funding for the creation of an AI semiconductor by 2029 and an AI-oriented Start-up Incubator to support emerging AI businesses.

UAE

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Promotional video for the UAE’s AI strategy | via YouTube, UAEai 2031

The UAE government launched its AI strategy in October 2017. It is the first country in the Middle East to create an AI strategy and the first in the world to create a Ministry of Artificial Intelligence. The strategy is the first initiative of the larger UAE Centennial 2071 Plan and its primary goal is to use AI to enhance government performance and efficiency. The government will invest in AI technologies in nine sectors: transport, health, space, renewable energy, water, technology, education, environment, and traffic. In doing so, the government aims to cut costs across the government, diversify the economy, and position the UAE as a global leader in the application of AI.

United Kingdom

The British government released the AI Sector Deal in April 2018. It is part of the government’s larger industrial strategy and aims to position the UK as a global leader in AI. It is quite comprehensive, with policies to boost public and private R&D, invest in STEM education, improve digital infrastructure, develop AI talent, and lead the global conversation on data ethics. Major announcements include over £300 million in private sector investment from domestic and foreign technology companies, the expansion of the Alan Turing Institute, the creation of Turing Fellowships, and the launch of the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation. The Centre in particular is a key program of the initiative, as the government wants to lead the global governance of AI ethics. A public consultation and a call for the chair of the Centre was launched in June 2018.

Ten days before the release of the sector deal, the UK’s House of Lords’ Select Committee on AI published a lengthy report titled, AI in the UK: ready, willing, and able? The report is the culmination of a ten-month inquiry that was tasked with examining the economic, ethical, and social implications of advances in AI. The report outlines a number of recommendations for the government to consider, including calls to review the potential monopolization of data by technology companies, incentivize the development of new approaches to the auditing of datasets, and create a growth fund for UK SMEs working with AI. The report also argued that there is an opportunity for the UK to lead the global governance of AI and recommended hosting a global summit in 2019 to establish international norms for the use and development of AI.

United States

Unlike other countries, the US government does not have a coordinated national strategy to increase AI investment or respond to the societal challenges of AI. During the final months of Barack Obama’s presidency, the White House laid the foundation for a US strategy in three separate reports. The first report, Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, made specific recommendations related to AI regulations, public R&D, automation, ethics and fairness, and security. Its companion report, National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Planoutlined a strategic plan for publically funded R&D in AI, while the final report, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy, examined in further detail the impact of automation and what policies are needed to increase the benefits of AI and mitigate its costs.

President Trump’s White House has taken a markedly different, free market-oriented approach to AI. In May 2018, the White House invited industry, academia, and government representatives to a summit on AI. In a speech at the conference, Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President for Technology Policy, outlined the President’s approach to AI. He announced the government has four goals: (1) maintain American leadership in AI, (2) support the American worker, (3) promote public R&D; and (4) remove barriers to innovation. To achieve these objectives, Kratsios announced a new Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence to advise the White House on interagency AI R&D priorities and to consider the creation of Federal partnerships with industry and academia. He also specified that the government will focus on removing regulatory barriers to innovation so that American companies have the flexibility to innovative and grow.

One Comment

  • Randy Goebel says:

    I would like to help give you pieces of information that would refine your dynamic writing about federal AI strategies, but I can’t find an email address, nor do I want to be upsold by LinkedIn to get your linkedin id?

    I am contributing to the German federal AI strategy as I type, and was part of the development of the Canadian one via AMII, where I was a found.

    Cheers,

    Randy

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