Saturday, 13 November 2021

Croatian Startup Mindsmiths Receives EUR 1.2 Million for AI Platform

November 13, 2021 - Croatian AI startup Mindsmiths received 1.2 million euros in seed funding from Feelsgod investment fund which supports companies with proven positive social impact. Mindsmiths will use this investment to further develop and expand its AI platform. 

Mindsmiths is a pioneer in the field of Autonomous Support System (ASS). By connecting with the Mindsmiths platform, digital systems become autonomous, make independent decisions, and approach users proactively.

“When your doctor, bank, mobile provider, or educational institution proactively offers you a solution to a problem it has identified, there is a great possibility that it was made possible by an autonomous support system based on Mindsmiths platform. Thanks to this technology, organizations can now provide their users with a smart solution at the right time,” explained Mislav Malenica, founder and CEO of Mindsmiths. 

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Besides AI engineers, Mindsmiths employs humanist experts whose task is a continuous shifting of boundaries of possibilities when it comes to the relationship between a man and a machine. Sociologists, psychologists, and behavioral scientists ensure that artificial intelligence systems built on the Mindsmiths platform display the ability to understand users’ needs and provide emotional support in challenging situations. 

Malenica says this investment is a milestone in the democratization of approaching such important technology. 

“Machine autonomy is the next big thing and it will unlock the incredible potential of increasing quality of life worldwide. Mindsmiths is here to realize that potential. We are aware that with such great power comes even greater responsibility which is why we are dedicated to the UN goals of sustainable development and guide ourselves by the principles of developing reliable AI,” Malenica added.MS_i_FG_4.jpeg

The potential of Mindsmiths was recognized by Feelsgood, a VC investment fund. This is the first VC fund developed completely in Croatia that not only invests in ventures that have a great potential of return on investment but also fulfill sustainability goals and create positive social impact. 

“Feelsgood is the first Croatian social impact VC fund. We are proud to have invested in Mindsmiths, which has won us over with its approach. We estimated that Mindsmiths has great growth potential and is dedicated to achieving positive social impact. Because they create technology that makes democratization of knowledge possible, we expect profits to rise with an increase of quality of life for great numbers of people,” concluded Renata Brkić, partner and board member of Feelsgood. 

So far, the Mindsmiths platform has been used to build autonomous support systems in various industries, from healthcare for chronic patients to financial advice for clients in the banking sector. This relationship between a man and a machine as an axis of the next level of interaction with AI motivated Davor Bruketa, internationally awarded Croatian creative genius, to invest in Mindsmiths in the angel round. 

MS_i_FG.jpegMindsmiths says they want to make the platform available to everyone who wants to use it to build positive social impact solutions. Izabel Jelenić, co-founder and CTO of Infobip, helps them realize their vision as a technical advisor.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated business section.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Croatian Artificial Intelligence Ecosystem to be Mapped Once Again

September the 23rd, 2021 - The blossoming Croatian artificial intelligence ecosystem (AI) is set to be mapped, providing an in depth overview of the country's so-called ''AI landscape''.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes, last year, at the initiative of the Croatian Association for Artificial Intelligence (CroAI), the Republic of Croatia received the first overview of its AI ​​landscape, ie the visualisation of all stakeholders in the domestic artificial intelligence market (AI); from companies and startups to the wider Croatian artificial intelligence ecosystem. As the aforementioned association explained, such research is a necessary precondition to send out a clear message about the current situation regarding AI, but also the potential of the Croatian AI scene, especially since the ecosystem is wide because it includes people and institutions of different profiles and orientations.

This year, the Croatian artificial intelligence ecosystem will be mapped once again, so all local organisations that are in any way involved in the implementation, development, education, research or support of AI initiatives are invited to fill out the application form for AI Landscape on croai.org.

"Last year, we found out how many of us there are and where we're location, and this year we'll get the opportunity to learn more about how AI startups in Croatia do business, what challenges they face and what the opportunities on the domestic and global scene for all of us actually are. We'll get an insight into how much the market has changed in a year and what trend awaits us in the future.

The new mapping of the Croatian artificial intelligence ecosystem is an opportunity for all those who haven't yet applied or haven't been able to be identified do so as soon as possible, as we want to include all stakeholders, from small startups hidden in people's garages to large organisations that have launched initiatives to apply artificial intelligence in their work,'' explained Jan Stedul, the General Secretary of CroAI.

Last year, about 70 Croatian AI startups were identified, and the landscape of the Croatian artificial intelligence ecosystem consisted of a total of 170 companies, startups and organisations. The results last year also showed that about 80 percent of these startups were located in the City of Zagreb and the surrounding area, which isn't surprising. The share of women in the role of founders or co-founders stood at about 14 percent.

For the purpose of this research, they included more than 500 organisations, and the details will be presented on October the 14th, 2021.

“We expect growth across all categories, analyses are still ongoing and exact figures will be presented on October the 14th at the AI2Future conference, but it's already clear that in the last year alone, the market has developed with the advent of specialised AI incubators, that the course on the basics of artificial Intelligence Elements of AI has achieved great results and that AI initiatives have been launched in a large number of Croatian companies,'' said Stedul.

As they had more time and resources to condut their analysis into the Croatian artificial intelligence ecosystem this year, they were joined by Cohres, which is also a CroAI member, which has expertise in investment research, and Stedul says they are helping them significantly in analysing data and the investment potential of the artificial intelligence market.

“The startup market is very dynamic and changeable, so it's always a challenge to monitor and refresh things, but I believe we managed to do a good job thanks to quality incubators and accelerators that are the greatest help. The entire IT sector, and especially AI, has exploded in the last year, of course the coronavirus pandemic and the need for digitalisation have greatly contributed to this. But while the appearance of COVID-19 has accelerated the process, there's no doubt that it would have happened anyway. It is easier to list companies that haven't started implementing artificial intelligence than those that have. If a company still wants to remain competitive on the market, today it is almost impossible without the use of artificial intelligence,'' concluded Jan Stedul.

The CroAI association also announced recently that investors are looking for top AI startups that can sign up for the CroAI startup pitch until September the 25th, 2021, which will also be held as part of the AI2FUTURE conference on October the 14th this year.

For more on AI in Croatia, follow Made in Croatia.

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Too Many Norms Kill Norms: The EU Normative Hemorrhage

May 9, 2021 -The view from Emmanuel R. Goffi, PhD and Aco Momcilovic, EMBA of the Global AI Ethics Institute and Alliance for Responsible AI.

AI may benefit or represent a threat to humanity in many ways in numerous fields such as education, environment, health, defense, transportation, space exploration, and so on. 

To avoid potential drifts of AI and benefit as much as possible from its advantages, AI must be controlled by normative frameworks. Yet, setting legal norms is a difficult and time-consuming process. 

Therefore, ethics is seen as a convenient and acceptable alternative to laws, since conversely to laws, it is flexible, easily and quickly adjustable, and less constraining than formal rules. 

The number of Ethics codes that have been issued around the world demonstrates the need to regulate AI while avoiding formal legal constraints. This tendency to use ethics as a tool to escape from constraining laws, is referred to as ethics washing, or cosm-ethics. 

Too many rules kill rules

Since 2017, the number of codes pertaining to AI ethics has increased at a fast pace reaching 1 180 documents according to a meta-study released by the ETH Zurich.

In a report by Tim Dutton from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, AI strategies from 18 different countries have been studied showing that they did not “share the same strategic priorities” and that “governments are taking very different approaches to promote the development of the same technology”.

With different so many documents and goals leading to different strategies, it seems impossible to elaborate a set of shared ethical standards. The report by Dutton even shows that ethics does not have the same importance to each government and that in some cases, like in the strategies of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan; it is totally absent. Only Sweden and the European Union are putting ethics at the top of their priorities. For most other stakeholders, ethics comes after research and industrial strategy.

What can we learn from these considerations about AI ethics codes? First, stakeholders have been so far unable to agree on shared values on which they could build a global ethical standard. Second, ethics is not a top priority in AI strategies for all governments. Third, each country is pursuing specific interests and setting ethical standards accordingly.

So, questions remain: What are all these codes aiming at exactly? Is their multiplication efficient or counterproductive in regulating AI?

The EU deontological stance: a moral suicide

In the race for leadership in AI, the stakes are high, and the struggle is harsh. With the US and China leading the sector, being competitive requests some comparative advantage. It seems that positioning itself as a normative actor, the European Union has found a way to enter the competition knowing that it is, nonetheless, lagging way behind many other competitors.  

The European Union has thus made the choice to invest its energy in demonstrating that, conversely to its rivals, it is willing to make sure that the development and use of AI would be framed by ethical standards in the absence of a legal framework.

In June 2018, the European Commission set a High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence which issued in April 2019, a document entitled Ethics guidelines for Trustworthy AI. In this document, seven principles are listed, with the purpose of “achieving Trustworthy AI”, “in the service of humanity and the common good, with the goal of improving human welfare and freedom”. 

In other words, the European Union demonstrates a strong will to develop a responsible approach to AI, making sure this technology will not become a threat to human beings. 

This stance differentiates the Union from other competitors for it gives it a status of normative power focused on ethical AI. 

At the same time, one must remind that this posture comes with the scope of a tenacious competition driven by the promises of huge economic benefits.

The European Union, like any other AI race runner, is perfectly aware of the benefits it could generate from this technology. It is also perfectly aware that it cannot compete against the US or China. Hence the question: is the European Union positioning itself as a normative power because it firmly believes in the importance of AI ethics, or does it do it for the competitive advantage it procures? Is trustworthy AI, as Thomas Metzinger wrote it, “a marketing narrative invented by industry, a bedtime story for tomorrow's customers”?

After all, it is clearly stated in the Guidelines that “Trustworthiness is a prerequisite for people and societies to develop, deploy and use AI systems”. How should we interpret that? 

It is noticeable that in its White Paper on AI the EU mentioned that “Europe is well placed to benefit from the potential of AI, not only as a user but also as a creator and a producer of this technology”, that the Union “should leverage its strengths to expand its position” and seize “the opportunity ahead” in a “data-agile economy and to become a world leader in this area”.  

The whole White paper is actually built on this focus on competitiveness supported by the establishment of an ecosystem of trust.

The normative logorrhoea of the European Union

In April, the European Union has released the draft proposal of its “Artificial Intelligence Act”, adding one more document to the list of guidelines, recommendations, regulations, reports, and other resolutions. In this “Proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonized rules on artificial intelligence, the EU is inserting a new layer of complexity to existing norms introducing the notion of a risk-based approach. If the intention is good, this new document makes even more complex the operationalization of EU normative requirements.

Many national AI Associations (like CroaAI) raised their concerns that companies working in the practical world, with pragmatic objectives will be even more lost in translation. The multiplication of ill-defined words, notions, and concepts, artificially linked to a superficial ethical narrative tends to blur EU expectations and real goals, much more than to make them clearer and easier to apply. The concern is that this additional regulation must drive a new wedge between companies with different capabilities and the potential to deal with new layers of administration and complexity.

The Union itself seems lost in its own regulatory tools and wording, trying to explain former tools with new ones that will need further explanation through new documents. Certification agencies are struggling to translate these regulations into practical processes. Companies are petrified facing this wall of meaningless words and ideas. The EU is killing its own market by imposing impenetrable rules, while other stakeholders, public and private, are developing at a fast pace free from legal constraints.

Normative discrimination might not happen only at the companies’ level. It can also apply to nations having different capabilities, possibilities, agendas, or even resources. This would create a situation of unfair discrimination between countries based on their National AI Capital. This discrimination could lead to the denial of diversity and existing differences in norms and values perspectives within the EU. Then, we could ask ourselves the following question: is the current EU regulatory process going to foster or to discriminate against nations’ opportunities to fully benefit from this technology?

At the end of the day, the ethical stance of the EU is all but clear. While asserting the importance of having an ethical framework for AI, the European Union developed non-constraining tools such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and principles that both lend themselves to all kinds of interpretation and are almost impossible to understand, operationalize, and therefore to implement. On the practical level, is it even reasonable to assume that all countries have enough of “Human Capital”, in the sense of enough educated people in the area of AI/Tech/Regulation, that would be required to be employees of national regulatory agencies, that are planned to be open by this act? What will be the consequences for those who do not have enough experts? Not developing AI? Will they have some kind of pro forma procedure? Something else?

Language is the vector of perceptions and ideas. As such, it seems that the EU is slowly getting tangled up in ethereal verbiage, losing sight of any practical and operationalizable end.

As one can see it the reality of the words might be somehow different from the reality of the action. Between pretending to be and being, between ethics and cosm-ethics, there is a very thin and porous line.

Is the European Union a real normative actor willing to frame AI with ethical principles? Or is it a mere competitor doing whatever it takes to get its lion’s share? Is the EU strategy in AI relevant and efficient? Aren’t we killing our own dynamics instead of boosting it in a highly competitive field?

It seems that the EU is now stuck in its own ethical swamp. It might be costly for our economy and our companies that will lose the race for AI dominance.

It is time to rethink our strategy and our ethical stance escaping from low-cost deontology to switch to a subtle balance between real deontology and consequentialism, in the framework of virtuous behaviors.

To read more news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Croatian Microblink Goes From Strength to Strength With AI

April the 15th, 2021 - The Croatian Microblink company has been one that has made headlines for all of the most positive reasons of late, showcasing yet another shining example of Croatian entrepreneurial skills and the drive and determination to keep going.

As Novac/Bernard Ivezic writes, the Croatian Microblink, a domestic software company that has developed the fastest mobile document scanner in the entire world and received (individually) the third largest startup investment in all of Croatia, has announced that it has artificial intelligence technology that is 50 percent faster than that used by both Apple and Google.

''The basis of the company's success is an advanced AI platform that is fully developed in the Republic of Croatia, and whose components in various tests which have been undertaken show that they're the best in the world. One of the components of this AI ​​platform is the execution of neural networks on a mobile device, and the Croatian Microblink performs this process 50 percent faster than similar platforms of the largest global companies such as Apple and Google,'' Microblink announced.

Jurica Cerovec, the global executive director of Microblink for technology, says that they have been developing artificial intelligence technology since way back in 2012, and the one that makes them better than Apple and Google since back in 2015.

''We've been developing the AI ​​platform for mobile devices since the very beginning, and in 2012 alone we had a machine learning team that was focused on how to make the best use of cameras on smartphones, in addition to mere photography,'' explained Cerovec, adding that deep neural networks began to be used directly on mobile devices in 2015.

''It was at a time when others were using this technology on large servers. In many ways, we were among the first in the world, which enabled us to enjoy the current position in that we're really one step ahead of global competition,'' said Cerovec.

The company, co-founded by Damir Sabol, has also announced that it is entering a new phase of development.

The Croatian Microblink plans to further accelerate the development of its advanced computer vision platform, which is based on artificial intelligence. It is also moving to commercialise its existing and new products for a range of industries, with the goal of doubling revenue in the coming years.

Igor Strejcek, Microblink's director for Croatia and the company's global vice president of operations, pointed out that their software is used by more than a million people every day. He stated that today they're in a position to have globally competitive products, a state-of-the-art platform that allows them to develop new products and scale the business.

''We have a development team for AI which is among the best in the world and is an excellent position for the exchange of knowledge among teams working in both Croatia and New York. That gives us the right to be very ambitious in our plans,'' assured Strejcek.

Microblink manufactures software for the rapid digitisation of various types of personal documents and the automation of data entry in a range of industries, particularly in the financial and telecommunications industries. Strejcek noted that in order to realise their ambitious new plans, they must double the number of experts they have on board.

This Croatian company currently has 111 full-time employees, and more than 50 new people joined them last year alone. Strejcek said he will continue to strengthen the artificial intelligence team, which is currently among the strongest in all of Europe with 70 people, and will look for new employees in other parts of the company as well.

Most of the employment is related to the office here in Zagreb, which will remain the main development centre for AI technology, and in expanding in the global market, they also rely on their office across the Atlantic over in New York.

''We can see room for growth in the development and implementation of our AI platform into new products for industries that are rapidly digitising. For example, in the development of document authentication products and the simplification of the remote authentication process, thus completely eliminating the need for physical contact between users and service providers. Microblink's technology will enable the protection of privacy in such a way that the data remains at all times only on the user's mobile phone,'' concluded Strejcek.

For more on Croatian companies, check out Made in Croatia.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Use of Artificial Intelligence: Comparing Croatia with Other Countries' Strategies

January 25, 2020 - The AI revolution is upon us. How much is Croatia lagging behind, and are we going to do something about it?

In my previous TCN article on Artificial Intelligence and Croatia, I mentioned that Croatia could engage in the following actions:

What needs to be defined and followed by regulations is the following:

  1. Comprehensive public policy on AI for sustainable development
  2. Ensuring inclusion and equality in AI in education
  3. Preparing teachers for AI-powered education and preparing AI to understand education

Some of the potential use cases for the AI in Education systems could be:

  1. Personalization - remedial students, advanced students, ESL students and the disabled all need to have the same access to learning. AI systems easily adapt to each student’s individual learning needs and can target students with teaching instructions based on their strengths and weaknesses
  2. Course Improvement - Teachers may not always be aware of gaps in their lectures and educational materials that can leave students confused about certain concepts. Artificial intelligence offers a way to solve that problem. (Coursera, a massive open online course provider, is already putting this into practice. When a large number of students are found to submit the wrong answer to a homework assignment, the system alerts the teacher and gives future students a customized message that offers hints to the correct answer.)
  3. Trial and Error Learning made easier - Trial and error is a critical part of learning, but for many students, the idea of failing, or even not knowing the answer, is paralyzing. Some simply don’t like being put on the spot in front of their peers or authority figures like a teacher. An intelligent computer system, designed to help students learn, is a much less daunting way to deal with trial and error. Artificial intelligence could offer students a way to experiment and learn in a relatively judgment-free environment, especially when AI tutors can offer solutions for improvement.

But even if we start those processes, where would we be in comparison to the rest of the world? What are other countries already doing and what should we be aware of?

Fortunately, a fear of missing out is spreading around the globe or at least among some countries. Numerous nations have developed AI strategies to advance their capabilities, through investment, incentives, talent development etc. As AI’s importance to the next generation of technology grows, many leaders are worried that they will be left behind and not share in the gains.

Many governments, in cooperation with and under pressure from their private sector, have developed formal AI frameworks to help boost economic and technological growth. These range from the US executive order on AI leadership and China’s “Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” to “AI Made in Germany” and the “Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. After concerns that China could take the lead, USA reacted and The White House recently unveiled 10 principles that federal agencies should consider when devising laws and rules for the use of artificial intelligence in the private sector, but stressed that a key concern was limiting regulatory “overreach.

It is no wonder that governments are rushing to foster AI investment, establish education programs, and pursue research and development to support businesses within their borders.

Even between early adopters, there are differences, and some of countries believe they’re widening a lead over the competition or even leapfrogging ahead – China for example and some countries like Australia say they’re using AI only to catch or keep up with the competition

When assessing the risks and potential benefits some countries’ early adopters feel more “fully prepared” for these AI risks than their counterparts from other countries. In the survey from Deloitte, respondents from Germany and China stated that they have a surplus of confidence, with faith in their preparedness surpassing their level of concerns for the bad outcomes.

But not many countries are early adopters. Many others are more or less falling behind. Croatia like many countries, unfortunately, still has to put a lot of effort into the AI subject, just to catch up with the best ones. But there is very significant difference in the awareness and approach between those countries that are lagging behind. A great example is Finland which embarked on an ambitious challenge to teach the basics of AI to 1% of its population, or 55,000 people. Once it reaches that goal, it plans to go further, increasing the share of the population with AI know-how. The scheme is all part of a greater effort to establish Finland as a leader in applying and using the technology. Latest reports show that the course, originally launched in 2018, has already enrolled more than 220,000 students from more than 110 countries. Finland now aims to teach 1% of all Europeans basic skills in artificial intelligence through a free online course. The course is available in English, Finnish, Swedish and Estonian so far, and Finland will translate it into all official EU languages in 2020.

Citizens can take an online course that is specifically designed for non–technology experts with no programming experience. In 2019, more than 10,500 people, including at least 4,000 outside of Finland’s borders, had graduated from the course. More than 250 companies have also pledged to train part or all of their workforce.

India also decided to reap the benefits of the AI and plans to become the first country to deploy artificial intelligence and machine learning in the tax assessment process, as their Finance Minister has promised to adopt faceless assessment system from October 2019. But that is not the only area, the Indian government has set up a task force with a comprehensive plan to boost the AI sector and leverage the capabilities associated with related- technologies, infrastructure, data usage and research. Again, they are aware that right now India is far from competing globally due to lack of skills and poor infrastructure to support AI technology.

In 2018, as a part of the Digital India program, their Finance Minister announced an investment of 40 million Euro in setting up ‘Centres of Excellence’ that will focus on research, big data analysis, quantum communication and IOT to improve digital literacy in the country. Additional to that following the concept of “Every time, Everywhere Education,” the government has also launched a website with 244 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), covering aspects like AI, data analytics, etc.

Canada, in March 2017 made AI a research priority and pledged to spend CAN$125 million over five years. The University of Toronto and the University of Montreal have become world leaders for research in deep learning machines, and the Canadian government is working to support university graduates skilled in AI development and recruit foreign talent

In Denmark the focus here has been on setting up strong protections to regulate AI. In March of this year, Denmark established an AI ethics board and released the Danish National Strategy for AI focused on protecting self-determination (ensuring machines do not make decisions for us), protecting human dignity and equality. Denmark has stated the next steps are to increase investments and improve knowledge, with a newly created AI science centre at the University of Copenhagen.

Japan has ambitious goals for digitization, and sees AI as a part of a 5th societal transformation, called Society 5.0. The vision for Society 5.0 imagines inclusive and sustainable cities powered by digitization in all aspects of life to solve Japan’s greatest challenges. Society 5.0 is looking to use AI to help an ageing population and reduce pollution, in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This vision has received major support from the Japanese public and industry alike.

Japan is also using AI to revitalize its economy, planning $87 million in robotic investments, with the market for internet of things (IoT) poised to hit $6 billion in 2019

In comparison, the Croatian Government and the ministries in charge, promised to prepare an AI Agenda for our EU Presidency, by the end of November (which was already quite late), then changed it to December, and last responses were that it should be done in January 2020!

Some initiatives are not surprisingly again coming from the private sector, and enthusiastic individuals, as we now have, recently founded the AI association that will start to work in 2020. CRO.AI is non-governmental organization that is connecting many organizations and individuals that are working in the field of artificial intelligence, with some common vision, values and mission how they want to use AI but also what they want to develop and deploy in their own solutions. A good call for that is also the strategic direction that European Union is giving us - for the next Digital Europe program, there is more than 2,5 bln EUR in the artificial intelligence focus area. The president of the newly founded CRO AI is Mislav Malenica, and vice president is Hajdi Cenan.

One of many areas of improvement, often mentioned in the local media is the low efficiency of our private sector. It is interesting to note as OECD states, that governments can leverage the power of AI to innovate and transform the public sector in order to redefine the ways in which it designs and implements policies and services. As AI technology evolves, administrative and process-driven tasks will be able to be automated, boosting public sector efficiency and freeing up public servants to focus on work that is more meaningful.

Around the world, at least 50 countries (including the European Union) have developed, or are in the process of developing, a national AI strategy. Of these, 37 have (or plan to have) either separate strategies in place for public sector AI, or a dedicated focus embedded within a broader strategy. (you can check latest updates per country here)

To conclude:

Some authors are making comparisons with the times when governments funded research and public declarations such as President Kennedy’s bold promise that the US would land on the moon within a decade, propelled scientific achievement forward leading to important milestones in human history. While perhaps less controversial, today’s race to lead the world in artificial intelligence is again prompting national governments to play a major role in science. Government efforts influence the level of support for research and development, and more importantly shape the new AI rules and regulations. Let us all hope that the Croatian Government will have enough sense and wisdom to take this topic very seriously. Because one thing is sure, Croatian citizens will feel the impact of those decisions very soon.

To read more from Aco, check out his author profile

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Croatia to Get First Strategy for Artificial Intelligence Development

The Croatian Government has finally leaked information about the date of the announcement of Croatia's national artificial intelligence development strategy, which should have actually been completed by this summer.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Bernard Ivezic writes on the 2nd of October, 2019, within sixty days, the Republic of Croatia should receive its first national artificial intelligence (AI) development strategy. Politically, this is a necessary document for the government to open the way forward to more than 2.5 billion euros in subsidies for both private and public companies and state administrations, intended solely to encourage the implementation of AI.

With the development of supercomputers (2.7 billion euros), subsidies for AI are the most abundant new source of "free" funding for high-tech development in the EU up until the year 2027.

Vlado Rendulić, a member of the APIS IT Management Board and a member of the Government Plan Strategy Working Group shed more light on dates on Wednesday at HUP's presentation of the document called ''Artificial Intelligence Potential for Croatia''.

"I can't speak on behalf of the government, and formally I'm not even a representative of the Ministry of the Economy, but as someone who is aware of the progress and development of this document, I can say that the proposal of the national AI strategy will be completed by the end of November," Rendulić stated encouragingly.

The time and place of its publication are not accidental. HUP has decided to publish a document on the potential of AI, because the government invited all segments of society except private entrepreneurs to develop the first Croatian AI strategy.

Furthermore, Economy Minister Darko Horvat announced that the strategy would be completed by the middle of this year, and although the deadline was broken, employers were not given information on how and at what pace it was being worked on. Moreover, the presentation at HUP announced the arrival of the State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy, Mario Antonić, but Vlado Rendulić appeared, who has, among other things, extensive experience in crisis management.

Rendulić added that the Croatian Government is following an EU recommendation to develop a plan for investment and concrete actions on AI. When the initial document is complete, he argues, a discussion will also open with the private sector. HUP are very skeptical, and there are many reasons for that. The government only joined the Union's AI partnership back in July as one of the last three members to show any interest, followed by sharp criticism.

And then, just a week ago, IMD announced that Croatia had fallen by seven places on the global digital competitiveness ranking, and is now in an unimpressive 51st place. In the introduction of HUP's AI document, Boris Drilo, a member of HT's Technology Board and president of the HUP-ICT Association, stated that the digital economy accounted for 5 percent of Croatia's GDP three years ago (with 18 billion kuna), and could grow to 16 percent of GDP (80 billion kuna) by 2025, according to McKinsey. But it depends on productivity growth, ie, the development of artificial intelligence and Croatia actually showing interest and taking it seriously.

"With advanced digital technologies, it will be possible to automate up to 52 percent of all working hours in Croatia," Drilo said.

Employers are convinced that this is one example of why they are stalling with the AI ​​strategy. Milan Račić, co-founder and director of development for the Croatian robotics startup Gideon Brothers, says there are topics in AI that Croatia's typically unpopular politicians don't like.

"We have to be honest and tell citizens that because of AI, some jobs will be gone, they need to be prepared for it, they should be offered a new perspective, and not be silent about it! I think the development of AI is greater than the next generation of communications, because it goes into all operations and all processes,'' Račić concluded.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

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