Artificial intelligence aims to help people and speed up services and processes in many social spheres; however, it also poses great risks that can seriously affect the violation of privacy and dignity, as well as undermine the freedom of citizens. This is the conclusion of today’s session dedicated to artificial intelligence, at the international conference “Digital Transformation for Citizens”, which is being held yesterday and today at the Marriott Hotel in Skopje.
At the conference, speakers from several countries shared their experiences regarding the implementation of artificial intelligence, both at the level of regulations and at the level of practices.
Festim Halili, Director of the Fund for Innovation and Technology Development (FITR), shared the news with the attendants that “ADA” – a conversational softbot will be put into use on Monday and will be available to the citizens 24 hours a day.
“The first female programmer was called Ada, and the name rhymes with “Vlada” (Government). It will be the first conversational softbot to work with several FITR applications and will run 24 hours, it will provide answers to questions and will be able to respond simultaneously to more than one client regarding start-ups, accelerators and grants. This online operator will not only replace people, but also complete the work of several operators, it will work 24 hours a day and serve many people at the same time”, said Halili.
According to him, artificial intelligence is a powerful tool and there must be investments in this field; however, it also carries risks, and there are scientists who feel fear when it comes to artificial intelligence.
“Elon Musk, for example, is somewhere in the middle, he certainly invests in AI, but he also says that it is a powerful weapon and that it can be more terrifying than a nuclear bomb. Therefore, we are working on the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, but we have also requested help from the World Bank, UNDP, German business support, etc., in order to make an appropriate framework and prevent any misuse from happening”, said Halili during his address.
According to him, four elements need to be met in order to say that a suitable artificial intelligence system has been created: to create systems that think like humans, act like humans, think rationally and act rationally.
Bogdan Manolea, Executive Director of the Association for Technology and Internet of Romania, said that they have prepared an artificial intelligence strategy, however there is still no official government strategy in place, for the purpose of which consultations currently take place behind closed doors.
“We also have a new project, that is, the Romanian Prime Minister presented the first government advisor that will use artificial intelligence, which already made mistakes in the first month, so we will have to work on it. The fact is that artificial intelligence has two sides and both sides need to be reported, because there are open questions such as the ones about the type of personal data it collects and the location where that data are being sent,” said Manolea.
Ella Jakubowska, Senior Policy Advisor at the European Digital Rights Initiative from Belgium, referred to the risks that the application of artificial intelligence may cause.
“Let us not forget the scandal that happened with social assistance in the Netherlands, which was a very simple artificial intelligence system. The system has shown that there are people who lie when they claim social assistance. This artificial intelligence system took into account things such as place of residence, ethnicity, etc. As a consequence of the operation of this system, some people were unjustifiably deprived of social assistance, some had their children taken away, and some people even committed suicide. The risks are high and AI cannot be used everywhere. For me, it is problematic to use it in healthcare or in the social sphere, because it limits people’s right to humane access”, said Jakubowska.
The European Digital Rights Initiative from Belgium, says Jakubowska, is especially dedicated to the biometric recognition of persons, which for them is an unsafe measure.
“We see that many governments choose systems that violate human rights, and they don’t say it publicly. When you go out to a protest, to a doctor’s appointment, to a lawyer’s office, to religious temples, LGBT bars, maybe you would not want to be recognized. We do not want the right to anonymity to be taken away”, said Jakubowska.
Serbia is the first country in the region to adopt a National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which includes data protection and human rights. The strategy was adopted in 2019, and Ana Toskic-Cvetinovic, Executive Director of Partners for Democratic Change Serbia, says that the country is “a playground for several initiatives related to artificial intelligence.”
“Simultaneously with the regulations, we have practical examples of how the use of AI is being initiated, without complying with all the principles of the regulations. For example, such is the case with the biometric monitoring as part of the agreement with the Chinese company “Huawei” and there are speculations that the streets of Belgrade are being monitored. Since then, there have been attempts to see if this is really happening and to make an assessment regarding the protection of personal data. We are waiting to see what will happen in the EU, and if the use of artificial intelligence for these purposes is banned, we expect Serbia to do the same”, said Toskic-Cvetinovic.
The two-day “Metamorphosis” conference, which ends today, is organized within the project “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA”, co-financed by the European Union. The goal of the conference is to increase the engagement of the citizens in the creation of the digital agenda.