In the new report on the digital future of Europe, MEPs reiterate their demands for a common EU regulatory framework for human-centric AI and request more support for SMEs.
The Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee adopted its report on the functioning of the digital single market and improving the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for European consumers with 39 votes in favour (5 abstentions). As Parliament’s response to the Commission’s strategy to shape Europe’s digital future in the years to come, MEPs call on the European Commission to address the challenges posed by the digital transition (from digital skills to connectivity) and focus on AI as technology that can enable and support the European public and private sectors to implement the upcoming changes.
Digital innovation key for SMEs
MEPs underline that digital innovation has to be strongly supported and EU lawmakers must guarantee that the accompanying common legislation endorses trustworthy, fair, accessible and human-centric technology, e.g. with an adequate degree of human control over algorithmic decision-making. European SMEs need the right amount of support to benefit from new technologies, be it through testing facilities, better access to data, easier regulatory requirements or funding, they add. In the long-term, say MEPs, new technologies could help the transition to a circular and sustainable economy (by finding more circular business models, promoting energy efficiency of data processing and storage systems and optimising the use of resources), and have the potential to help meet the needs of urban, rural and isolated regions in the EU.
More trust and clearer rules needed
AI solutions could diminish existing barriers and reduce the fragmentation of the internal market, support European digital economy and its competitiveness, contributing also to safety, security, education, healthcare, transport and the environment, argue MEPs. At the same time, they add that a clear legal framework for AI is a prerequisite for more trust in the technology, to avoid discrimination and make sure the fundamental rights of Europeans are well protected.
Rapporteur Deirdre Clune (EPP, IE) said after the vote: “Artificial Intelligence can be positive and transformative. It could help us to face many societal challenges – from treating diseases to minimising the environmental impact on farming. For AI to be successful in Europe, it needs to be trusted. We need to create the right environment for investment and innovation. We need to give businesses and start-ups room for innovation and support investment to realise the full potential of AI for consumers in the EU. Europe’s digital future and improving the use of AI will have a transformative effect across many sectors of society in the European Union.”