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Investing in talent, a joint agenda and a strong infrastructure are key elements for the Netherlands to take a leading role in responsible AI. That was the message from the Amsterdam AI coalition to Minister for Digitalisation Alexandra van Huffelen and Alderman Alexander Scholtes during their working visit to LAB 42.
Prof. Sennay Ghebreab with Minister van Huffelen en alderman Scholtes.
Prof. Sennay Ghebreab with Minister van Huffelen en alderman Scholtes. Photo: Freek van den Bergh

Threat or solution?

The working visit focused on the balance between AI as a threat and AI as a solution. Within Amsterdam AI, several projects are underway to improve equal opportunities in society. Cees Snoek, UvA professor of Intelligent Sensory Information Systems and scientific director of Amsterdam AI, demonstrated this together with the CIVIC AI Lab and the AI Media & Democracy Lab, using the city as a ‘lab’. Both labs are public-private partnerships (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the City of Amsterdam for the first and DPG and other media companies for the second) with applications and impact for citizens. These partnerships are important for the social issues at hand, which are only getting bigger and more urgent. Minister Van Huffelen emphasised the use of AI for good. However, she indicated that, in order to be proactive, we need to enter into a dialogue about the potential risks of AI. ‘We will soon publish the AI Act, which describes these kinds of risks and how we should deal with them'.

Minister for Digitalisation Alexandra van Huffelen
Copyright: UvA
I really want to know how we can use AI to solve big social problems like poverty issues or sustainability. There are no good answers for those issues yet, not even in a European context. Minister for Digitalisation Alexandra van Huffelen

The Netherlands can make a difference

According to Snoek, responsible tech is a sector with huge potential, not only for Amsterdam AI but also for the Netherlands. ‘That's where the Netherlands can make a difference. But becoming a frontrunner means we need to invest in talent. Moreover, a good infrastructure is essential. We are competing for talent not only with the United States but also within Europe itself. In addition, in the Netherlands, we lack the computing capacity and infrastructure to share and process data responsibly. We need that computing power to train, test and apply AI for our innovation and for our projects in the Netherlands. Currently, additional computing power is frequently purchased piecemeal, or we rely on large providers in, for example, the United States.’

Alexander Scholtes, alderman ICT and Digital City: ‘It was very interesting to work with researchers and the industry to see what AI can contribute to society, such as making health care more accessible and countering disinformation. I will continue to work on this topic so that it gets a follow-up in Amsterdam's new Digital City agenda.’

‘Developments are going very fast. AI will soon be everywhere in society, and that makes an integral investment agenda to shape ambitions for the Netherlands even more crucial,’ the scientific director of Amsterdam AI said at the end of the working visit. ‘Our coalition is happy to actively contribute to this project together with the other regions.’