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Italy will soon have a national strategy for artificial intelligence

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We are almost there on the arrival of the first Italian national strategy for artificial intelligence. The group of experts designated by the government finished yesterday – with a small delay – the work of the recommendations for the strategy and sent it to the competent cabinet of ministers. At the ministry of university and research, the ministry of economic development and the minister for technological innovation and digital transition.

We’re almost there, and it was time. Italy lacks a strategy and a coherent investment plan on an area where the country’s future is at stake, because – according to all experts, see McKinsey and Accenture annual reports – the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution embraces and it transforms almost all economic and social spheres.

Thanks to algorithms, big data and computing power (these are the basic ingredients of AI) it is possible to have a leap in productivity and efficiency in factories, in agriculture; in city management. It is no coincidence that France and Germany have had a strategy since 2019 (the US and China since much earlier), with respectively one billion in four years and 3 billion in six. Similar plans that focus on the strengthening of basic and multidisciplinary research, on the diffusion of AI in factories, in the public administration.

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Where AI can make a difference is now known in the literature; the challenge is to bring innovation to the specific social, economic and industrial spheres of each country and to manage the transformation without increasing inequalities. Among other things, if Italy still delays on this front, it risks losing competitiveness in the manufacturing sector, where it is second in Europe.

The Draghi government is aware that we must hurry; the aim was to launch the strategy as early as September. The path has been tortuous: Italy has been working on it since 2018, when under the aegis of the Mise (Ministry of Economic Development) it commissioned a team of experts from various fields to formulate proposals, which were published two years later. With the new government we start from scratch; perhaps also to cure the previous original sin of having wanted to do everything alone under the Mise. Last July a task force of nine experts was formed, this time all technical and sectoral, while the previous group also included lawyers, economists, consumer representatives.

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The new experts are: Fosca Giannotti (Cnr), Isabella Castiglioni (professor of physics, Milano Bicocca University), Giuseppe Magnifico (first technologist at the CNR), Juan Carlos de Martin (professor at the Department of Automatics and Computer Science of the Polytechnic of Turin ), Marco Conti (CNR), Michela Milano (professor of Computer Science – Science and Engineering department. Director of the Alma Mater Research Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence), Rita Cucchiara (professor of Information Processing Systems at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia), Giovanni Miragliotta (professor of Industrial Plants and Advanced Supply Chain Planning at the Politecnico di Milano), Barbara Caputo (director of AI-H @ PoliTo, the Hub on Artificial Intelligence of the Polytechnic of Turin, co- founder and board member of the European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems).

On the contents of the recommendations, maximum confidentiality, “we have sworn secrecy, also because the Government could then not include them in our strategy”, explains one of them. But what to do, where to invest is almost taken for granted: the proposals of the old working group do not differ much from the French and German plans. Now we need to hurry and accompany the country to the economic and social transformation connected with the advent of AI.

“Europe has set 2019 as the deadline for national strategies and we are among the very few who do not have one,” says Stefano Da Empoli, founder of the ICom observatory and one of the previous experts. “Yet another technical document is not enough, now the Government must do as in France and bear the political authorship of the strategy”. “Among the most urgent priorities, creating a dedicated national research center and supporting investments by SMEs, now very late”.

We will see: the first stone of the Italian strategy is about to be laid.

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