Nordic and Baltic states agree on joint approach to AI

The governments of the Nordic and Baltic region want to work closer together to further increase the status of artificial intelligence in business and society

Nordic and Baltic countries are working together to increase the region’s status as a location for the development and adoption of artificial intelligence technology (AI).

Under a new resolution, governments will apply a joint approach to taking advantage of and further elevate the Nordic region’s already high status as a leader in the development and use of AI and digital technologies.

The governments of the Nordic and Baltic nations are no strangers to cross-border joint or bilateral collaboration. The Nordic Council, the leading forum for political cooperation between Nordic countries, was formed in 1952, specifically to foster discussion and common positions on key economic and security areas of mutual interest.

The Regional scope for collaboration expanded in 2014, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Nordic loop of nations, adding an important Baltic dimension to the partnership alignment of these neighbouring states.

The latest resolution adopts a commitment to increase cooperation in the area of digital. Additionally, the participating countries will implement joint measures to reinforce their cooperation in AI.

“Digital and AI are areas that all Nordic and Baltic governments feel are primed for real cooperation,” said Peter Eriksson, Sweden’s minister for housing and digital development. “This Region currently ranks as the European leader in digital development. The Resolution now reached will expand collaboration between the Nordic and Baltic partner countries. Sweden will lead and take the Nordic-Baltic cooperation into the next stage by moving the work forward and proposing necessary measures.”

The Nordic-Baltic collaboration also opens the door to partnering with AI and digital technology industry players in the region. In particular, Nordic and Baltic governments will work with the private sector to avoid unnecessary regulation pertaining to research, development and technology to launch initiatives in the AI and digital sectors.

Read more about AI in the Nordic region

The immediate objectives identified in the Nordic-Baltic resolution include improving the opportunities for skills development within the AI and digital domains. The fundamental aim of this target is to greatly expand the usage of AI technologies by government agencies, private businesses and other organisations.

The resolution also promises to create a landscape of shared ambition and common conditions across the Nordic and Baltic states that strengthen access to data. The principal aim here is to employ AI more strategically to deliver improved service platforms that both benefit the interaction of state agencies with citizens as well as the customers of private enterprises and organisations.

The proposed scope of the resolution will also be constructed to develop ethical and transparent guidelines, standards, norms and principles that can be employed as a steering mechanism to guide AI programmes.

It will also cover joint initiatives intended to pursue common international standards for infrastructure, hardware, programmes and data. The core objective here is to secure interoperability, privacy, security, trust, usability and mobility in both AI and digital technologies.

The scaled-up usage of AI and digital technologies holds the potential to help solve major societal challenges, said Urve Palo, Estonia’s minister of entrepreneurship and IT. “AI and digital can also provide significant cost-efficiency benefits in a broad range of areas in national economies,” said Palo.

A primary focus of Nordic-Baltic cooperation will be in maximising the embedded potential in current AI and digital technologies to increase efficiency and value creation. The fruits of this objective can be expected to gain traction as more money is directed at the research and development (R&D) end of the AI and digital technology spectrums.

In this regard, the resolution underlines the need to invest more heavily in R&D projects that produce AI solutions with a greater user-friendly value, and which are available for broad use. Moreover, such added-value AI solutions, over the long term, should make more rapid advances in new and wider areas of application.

AI’s potential for Nordic and Baltic countries

AI offers significant potential for the Nordic and Baltic countries in business and public sector activities, said Rikke Hougaard Zeberg, director-general of Denmark’s agency for digitisation.

A projection, based on data collated by the Nordic Council of Ministers, estimates that the widespread use of AI has the capacity to double the economic growth potential in national economies in the region over the long term.

“The challenges we face in utilising AI are considerable, but the advantages are much greater if they are reached,” said Zeberg.

The scale of the challenge that lies ahead is openly acknowledged by officials and experts at the centre of the project. In particular, governments are mindful of ethical considerations and other risks inherent in the future development of AI and digital technologies. The degree and complexity of the challenges – and overcoming them – will to a large extent be helped by the high digital maturity of the Nordic and Baltic countries.

In deepening collaboration in AI and digital, the Nordic and Baltic countries have embarked on a clear path to joining forces to realise the advantages in the two pivotal and parallel technology areas.

The cooperation is driven by mutual recognition that being on top of the European AI/digital tree can add a significant new dynamic to strengthening individual country status in terms of international competition, and developing more efficient and relevant public sector activities.

The origins of collaboration

The origins of collaboration date back to April 2017, when the Nordic and Baltic states signed the Nordic-Baltic Region Digital Frontrunner Declaration. This was a regional response to the implementation of proposed European Union initiatives within the framework of the Digital Single Market.

The Nordic-Baltic declaration was followed in June 2017 by a Nordic Council initiative to establish the MR-Digital (Ministers for Digitalisation) project.

“It is essential that we can better utilise data and AI to promote innovation and develop solutions to major societal challenges. The digital integrity we have created in the Nordic Region must be respected throughout the process. If data is Nordic oil, then trust is Nordic gold,” said Dagfinn Høybråten, the Nordic Council’s secretary general.

Nordic governments are already active in other pivotal joint projects. In May, Nordic governments agreed to cooperate in the development and roll out a 5G wireless network. In effect, this will lead to the implementation of political and legislative conditions at national level to enable the parallel roll-out of 5G across the entire Nordic region.

The project will run as a joint venture between the Nordic Council, MR-Digital, the governments of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, national digitisation agencies and representative business organisations in the region.

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