Developing national AI strategy: the race to global AI leadership


In the last few years, countries have focused on national AI strategy in a race to both take advantage of AI and prepare for its’ challenges. For a comprehensive updated summary of national AI policy, see AI Policy researcher Tim Dutton’s overview of national AI strategies. AI planning on a national level is a new topic: Canada was the first country to release a plan as recently as 2017. Two years later, the AI Readiness Index 2019 Data shows there are 14 countries with AI strategies and 19 countries with forthcoming plans, out of 194 in total.


AI policies vary. Many countries focus on research, skills development and establishing ethical frameworks:

  • China has a comprehensive plan to become a global leader in AI
  • Other countries, such as Kenya have just begun the process of research by creating a task force of researchers and aim to determine a course of action later.
  • France announced plans to strengthen its’ AI ecosystem which will include €1.5 billions be devoted to finance special projects and startups.
  • Germany has already established itself as a leader with its’ German Research Centre for AI (DFKI)
  • Other aspects include the EU’s intent to prepare citizens for the socioeconomic change caused by AI.
  • In the UK, guidelines reportedly require government teams working with AI to include “people from different genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, disabilities and sexualities”. 


timeline of AI race

AI Arms Race?


Putin’s statement in 2017 that “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world” has sparked debate about whether the US, China and Russia are currently in an arms race. With massive expansions in AI investment, the link to defense is observed by some as evidence that the superpowers may weaponize AI. For more information, ethical considerations of AI in the military are discussed in previous AIBE Summit blog posts here and here. However, Tim Dutton warns that Putin is often quoted out of context and overstates Russia’s AI capabilities at the moment. Dutton adds that Putin’s complete statement (whether or not it is truthful) is: “it would not be very desirable that this monopoly be concentrated in someone’s specific hands. That’s why, if we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how with the entire world.” 


To learn more…


All of these developments in national AI strategy have led to the creation in 2019 of the AI World Government Conference “a comprehensive three-day forum to educate and inform public sector agencies on the strategic and tactical benefits of deploying AI and cognitive technologies”, which welcomes academics to attend.


Written by Tanya Beck


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