Ice cold glacier water in Norway. Photo by @fredrikwandem.

Two Years With a Norwegian National AI Strategy — How Is It Going?

Central actors within the field of artificial intelligence in Norway considers the way forward from the launch of the strategy in 2020 and the future outlook from 2022

Foreword

The article that follows was written jointly by representatives for some of the largest and most active AI communities in Norway. This article was originally written in Norwegian, however I have met a few people that have been wondering what AI communities in Norway are up to and thinking about, so I thought I would share this with you. As the four actors writing jointly below may not be familiar to you if you come from outside of Norway here you have a short summary of each.

Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium (NORA.ai) that I work with as responsible for AI Policy and Ethics. It consists of eight universities, three university colleges and four research institutes. NORA.ai collaborate in the field of artificial intelligence with a common strategy to strengthen Norwegian research and education in the field. NORA.ai is also an active promoter of education, business and start-ups in artificial intelligence.

Digital Norway: A non-profit started in 2017 by 15 committed business actors to accelerate the digitalisation of Norwegian business, with a special focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.

Norwegian Open AI Lab (NAIL): Center for Research, Education and Innovation in Artificial Intelligence. Located in Trondheim with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) as host.

CAAI (Cluster for Applied AI): To contribute to Norway taking a leading position in profitable and sustainable use of artificial intelligence (CI) in a business context. The business cluster is suitable for actors who develop or use KI today, or who have decided to do so.

Together these actors form the ‘Norwegian national team for artificial intelligence’ of sorts, self-described. Brought together to create value for citizens and companies in a responsible manner.

Again, to make this clear I work with NORA.ai, yet this is my personal blog about artificial intelligence. Before this article (on a personal note) I believe the Norwegian government is increasingly working to address the field of artificial intelligence and work in a coordinated way to do so. Especially in research, they have recently funded a National Research School for Artificial Intelligence in Norway and the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Cloud. Of course, a lot more can be done, yet it is clear Norway has upped its efforts to increase competencies and capacity in the field of AI.

So, now that the Norwegian strategy goes from one year old into two years, how are things going and what comes ahead?

Celebrating with some digital cake. GIF from @studiosoriginals from Giphy.

The original article is called “To år med nasjonal KI-strategi — hvordan ligger vi ann?”.

Two Years Since the Norwegian AI Strategy

Written by Birte Malene Tangeraas Hansen (NORA.ai), Trym Holter (Norwegian Open AI Lab), Eirik Andreassen (Digital Norway) and Marianne J. Bjerkman (Cluster for Applied AI)

The authors of this article represent actors who work together to make Norway an AI nation. We are ready to coordinate more of the work to ensure that the public sector and business are enabled to utilise the value creation potential in AI technologies and solutions in collaboration with the research and education sector.

What can we achieve with artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is technology that solves a type of problem that was previously assumed to have to be solved by humans. AI now plays a key role in various types of automation, and therefore contributes to tasks being solved more efficiently. An example is automatic reading of number plates which makes the job of the parking attendant much easier.

At the same time, AI contributes to products and services of better quality (AI systems can interpret X-ray images more precisely than the doctor) and better adapted to the individual user (recommendation systems and precision medicine). AI is also a prerequisite for uncovering patterns and creating insight from the enormous amount of data that we in today’s sensor society have access to — something that is not possible for the human brain or solutions based on more traditional technology.

AI will play an important role in solving some of the biggest challenges we as a society face.

Clearer follow-up of the AI strategy

Undoubtedly, several positive measures have been initiated since the government launched the national AI strategy in January 2020. We mention, among other things, two new centres for research-driven innovation (SFIs) within KI led by NTNU and UiT, respectively, Datafabrikken under the auspices of Digital Norway and DigiDir, the Data Inspectorate’s Sandbox for responsible artificial intelligence, as well as awarding arena status to Cluster for Applied AI.

However, it is not obvious how these and other measures are part of a systematic effort to make Norway an AI nation. We therefore call for a clear action plan for how the KI strategy is to be followed up.

In addition, we register that the ownership of the AI strategy has become less clear to outsiders after it was launched by the then Minister of Digitisation Nikolai Astrup. This is due, among other things, to several changes in the names of ministerial posts and ministries during the period.

Digitisation is a key factor in the development of society, and if we are to succeed in this, we need stimuli, common solutions and stronger coordination across areas of use, sectors and levels of government.

We therefore believe that Norway should have its own Minister of Digitisation with responsibility for both digitisation of the public sector, and for instruments for increased use of KI and other advanced digital technologies in the private sector.

It is crucial that the business community is given better framework conditions to strengthen its innovative power, linked not only to applying, but also to developing AI-based solutions. This is an industry that has a large export potential if the conditions are right for it.

Access to data and collaboration

AI is developed based on large amounts of data. This gives Norway a unique opportunity. Norway has large amounts of data in many areas. In combination with trust, this creates fertile ground for cooperation. An expert group has recently been established to submit proposals for guidelines and measures regarding responsibility, ownership and rights of use in connection with the sharing of industrial data in the business sector. We hope this will be a concrete and positive contribution that stimulates the players to exchange data to a much greater extent than before.

We further believe that it is important to further strengthen the framework conditions that create good cooperation between innovation environments, business, universities, research institutes, the public sector and investors.

The public sector should, for example, take an active role through the use of innovative public procurement and public / private collaboration to create a larger domestic market for solutions based on AI.

Platforms for collaboration and financing

Artificial Intelligence has great potential for creating Norwegian sustainable workplaces and solutions, but to achieve this, service development and collaboration between companies, networks, cluster environments and catapult centres must be facilitated.

The new EDIH scheme (European Digital Innovation Hub) must be fully funded. The EDIH mechanism is designed to support small and medium-sized enterprises and the public sector with digital transformation, and the financing of the work is intended as a joint venture between the European Commission and the nation states.

Unfortunately, the signals we have received are that Norway will not finance its half. This puts the broad constellation, which is coordinated by Digital Norway, and which is applying to establish a Norwegian EDIH in the AI field, in a difficult situation.

The EDIHs are a tool that Norwegian companies have been waiting for. We now hope that the government knows its visiting hours, and that national funding for the scheme will be in place.

Competition for competence

Employers in business and the public sector have an urgent need for AI-competent labor. The field is growing within Norwegian universities, but it is happening slowly compared with the explosive growth globally and does not reflect that KI should be a focus area in the Norwegian context.

We believe that Norway educates too few people with broad and cutting-edge expertise. Another challenge is that the proportion of women is too low.

We recommend that a clear and long-term program be established for AI where specific points for strengthening research and education should be included. Funding for research and education within AI should be designed so that focused environments are created. And not least, there is a need for financing and adaptation of continuing and further education for the business community within AI.

We see a need and a clear desire among Norwegian universities, colleges and research institutes for more concrete measures to strengthen research and education in artificial intelligence. There may be earmarked funds for research schools and for the universities’ infrastructure for skills development and computing power in artificial intelligence.

This is how we want to contribute

The “Norwegian national team” for artificial intelligence, represented by the Cluster for Applied AI, the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium (NORA) and the Norwegian Open AI Lab, is now joining forces to map the exciting landscape of Norwegian start-up companies linked to AI.

This is part of a European collaboration with Sweden, France and Germany which, among other things, will contribute to making Norwegian companies more visible both in a national and international context.

The ambition is also to stimulate further collaboration between actors who represent the academic and the commercial perspective, as truly value-creating innovation is often based on research.

Afterword

To summarise the ask is for:

(1) clearer follow-up of the Norwegian AI strategy from the government with an action plan for AI;

(2) that Norway needs a Minister for Digitalisation, as it had previously;

(3) need for better public procurement processes within the field of AI;

(4) funding of the proposed European Digital Innovation Hub for Artificial Intelligence in Norway;

(5) educate more people in AI, especially ensure representation of women.

(6) further collaborations on data in the field of AI.

In this way the communities representing large sections of the field of AI have been clear in outlining a few steps that needs to be taken to facilitate the development and application of AI within Norway.

It’s an efficient celebration. GIF by @latenightseth from Giphy

There is a lot more to be said of course.

We should have had meetings and cakes etc.

I mean, an artificial intelligence cake sounds exciting.

But it’s still a pandemic and with the Omicron variant spreading this is a more efficient celebration.

Here are some cake related GIFs I chose not to include. Love GIFs.

Panda not amused with celebration. From Giphy. Felt it would give the wrong impression, as it is a happy celebration after all, although some criticism is given and improvements suggested.
Cake explosion. @BlackPowderWorks from Giphy. Ended wanting to use this as a banner for the article. Love the explosion effect. Great work by BlackPowderWorks on this GIF.
Birthday fail cake. From Giphy. Again, I think the Norwegian government has been doing rather well, so insinuating the two year was a failure… Still, such a great GIF.
Great GIF by @Pluralsight. Not that funny, but I like the visual effect, colours etc.

This is #1000daysofAI and you are reading article 508. I am writing one new article about or related to artificial intelligence for 1000 days. The first 500 days I wrote an article every day, and now from 500 to 1000 I write at a different pace.

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Alex Moltzau

Alex Moltzau

1.4K Followers

AI Policy and Ethics at www.nora.ai. Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own. twitter.com/AlexMoltzau