As the 21st century rages on, success and failure of nations depends not only on their citizenry and governmental leadership, but heavily on the technological visions that countries embrace. If a nation takes the approach of sitting back or standing still as automation and Artificial Intelligence advance at ever increasing rates, that nation is destined to be left behind. However, if a country embraces AI and dedicates significant resources and top minds to ethical implementation, that country is destined to be a leader for decades to come.
Recently Steve Mills, Chief AI Ethics Officer & Leader for Artificial Intelligence in the Public Sector, and Partner at Boston Consulting Group said quite eloquently “AI has become table stages for global national economic and technological competitiveness. This goes beyond nations capturing a piece of the large and rapidly growing AI market. AI is poised to transform nearly every industry. There is an imperative for nations to position themselves to integrate AI into these sectors. Particularly those sectors that are economically important to them. Failing to do so could erode their competitive position, creating opportunities for other, more technologically advanced nations to fill the void. This is not just a matter of missed upside potential from the new AI market. It’s also about downside risk for every other sector that is economically important to a nation.”
What does it take to be one of these leading nations? To find that answer let’s look at the 7 most promising Governmental AI solutions across the globe.
1. United States Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center
The Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is building on its success and moving towards what its Director, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, calls “JAIC 2.0.” He wants the United States to accelerate the implementation of AI within the DoD. Lt. General Groen has also overseen the granting of $100 million to Deloitte Consulting to create a Joint Common Foundation to help organize the pentagon’s AI factory, secure it against intruders, direct its workers and test its products. As I’ve written ad infinitum, countries will always move their vision forward by successfully teaming with the private sector.
2. Denmark’s Digital Growth
The Danish government allocated $134 million euros through 2025 as a part of their new Digital Growth Strategy. The goal of Denmark’s strategy for digital growth is to make Denmark a pioneer in the digital revolution to develop wealth for every Danish citizen.
This sounds great on its face, but what exists within their borders to make this a reality? PerLasse Grøn Christensen, a Tech Team Leader at Invest in Denmark said, “Denmark holds international strongholds in research within the area of big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning and cryptography, just to mention a few, and offers a world-class software development talent pool. The strong focus of the Danish government to increase the number of graduates with a STEM background and to secure easier access to IT skills will be crucial for Denmark’s digital growth and a decisive factor for companies looking for locations to set up new R&D facilities.”
3. Estonia’s National AI Strategy
Estonia has a goal of at least 50 AI use cases by the end of the year, building on its current 30. Estonia created a National AI Strategy, which resulted in a national plan for promoting the implementation of AI solutions in both public and private sectors. Part of this is the Estonian government investing 10 million euros through 2021 to push towards full implementation of this National AI Strategy.
The government is also focusing on their national education system with AI in mind. Estonia have begun a change with the creation of a specialized Master of Science study program in the field of Data Science, including artificial intelligence. The nation will begin to include AI in the curriculum for all general education schools. This is a common sense, yet brilliant approach to winning the future in Denmark. By starting their youth in the these fields through school, Estonia can ensure great bench strength and an educated and ready generation of AI minds to come.
4. Singapore’s National Artificial AI Strategy
Last fall the government of Singapore announced a national Artificial Intelligence Strategy to transform Singapore’s economy and improve the lives of citizens. The pillars of this national initiative are Transport and Logistics, Smart Cities and Estates, Healthcare through chronic disease prediction and management, Education and Safety and Security.
Singapore, like the United States, has also successfully partnered with the private sector to further its national AI agenda. In 2016 as a precursor to their Nation Artificial Intelligence Strategy, the government of Singapore teamed up with Microsoft on Microsoft’s Conversations as a Platform program to create a next-generation digital government services for a Smart Nation.
5. China’s Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan
The Chinese government has not been shy in stating its goals are to enroll the world’s best AI talent, fortify the training of their domestic AI labor force, and lead the world in law, guidelines, and moral standards that advance the improvement of AI. China, more than any country on Earth, believe that AI has the power to completely rearrange the power structure of the SuperPowers on Earth.
Their Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan is the most “comprehensive of all national AI strategies, with activities and objectives for R&D, industrialization, talent development, education and skills acquisition, standard setting and regulations, ethical norms, and security.” The Chinese Government has committed to developing an AI industry worth 1 trillion RMB, with related ventures worth 10 trillion.
6. Saudi Arabia National AI Strategy
Saudi Arabia is steadily making its way to the forefront of the global AI movement, announcing that it will invest $20 billion in artificial intelligence projects by 2030. At the recent Global AI Summit, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Crown Prince, stated “The year 2020, undoubtedly, has been an extraordinary year to test the potential of AI, as we witness the formation of a new global normal that is redefining our ways of life, working and learning.”
Saudi Arabia is another country leveraging the power of public private partnerships. The country has created outreach initiatives with the World Bank, ITU and the UN. The nation also understands that the government alone cannot create and foster AI that moves the country as a whole forward. Buy-in and participation from the private sector and the public as a whole is critical.
7. Canada’s AI Investment in Research and Talent
2017 was a landmark year for Canadian AI. The Government of Canada appointed CIFAR to develop and lead a $125 million Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. At the time, this was the world’s first national AI strategy.
Canada wants to leverage AI to better the health of its citizens through its AI4Health Task Force. The country is also dedicated to including AI in their education systems to create future generations of AI researchers and top minds. With entities like the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (AMII) in Edmonton, the Vector Institute in Toronto and MILA in Montreal, Canada is well poised to lead AI initiatives for the decades to come.
A number of strategic adoption steps to support the use of artificial intelligence in accordance with the national road maps would be highlighted at the upcoming invite only Global Roundtable on AI and Digital National Competitiveness and Resilience. BCG in collaboration with the International Research Center on AI under auspices of UNESCO will be convening the international policy community for the first time to have a peer-to-peer dialogue on strategic national level AI initiatives. It will bring together national-level AI experts and leaders from around the world to discuss a variety of topics related to national-level AI initiatives.
Preparing and developing digital talent
So, what can other countries do to be part of a list such as this one and ready their governments and citizenry for the future? They first need to increase AI specialized majors to accelerate the growth of their domestic AI workforce. The growth should be conducted through a cross-cutting AI and sector specialization, based on where AI can bring the highest impact and where the country’s priorities and strengths are. While this is a long-term objective, most countries do not currently have the talent base required to maximize the benefits AI can provide them in terms of competitiveness. To address this gap, governments may need to bring in foreign talent to start developing a domestic AI ecosystem. This can be accomplished by offering strong incentives, such as creating attractive research programs, creating projects providing competitive compensation and facilitating visa processing for key talent.
Developing a national AI ecosystem
A first priority for governments would be to concentrate on infrastructure development to enable the different stakeholders to develop the AI sector.
Also, government agencies, businesses and academic institutions need to be able to access platforms where they can exchange knowledge, experience and best practices while being given the opportunity to form networks and build partnerships. AI solutions should also be adopted across sectors when possible, which would accelerate the development of use cases and reduce costs.
To succeed in promoting country-wide adoption, governments need to create incentives for industry incumbents that might be domestic sector leaders that currently represent some of the country’s economic strengths. One incentive could be to develop open data policies with governments making some of their data available with the anonymization and privacy provisions. Entrepreneurship should also be promoted to enable existing and new actors to innovate. Governments can provide support by facilitating access to finance, and to the broader ecosystem.
Policy and regulation
Finally, an inclusive governance framework should be established. Key stakeholders involved in AI policy-making should be gathered per each country’s institutional setting. At the core of this foundation needs to be the establishment of Research & Innovation policies that are fair, ethical and strategically implemented. Then, priority sectors should be developed to provide direct short and long term funding to projects and innovations deemed to be in the best interest of the government and country as a whole.
Disclosure: Mark Minevich acts in capacity as external advisor to BCG and Chair of AI Policy at the International Research Centre for AI, under the auspices of UNESCO