EP artificial intelligence legislation must remain human-centric, Cutajar says

MEPs underlined how digital innovation has to be strongly supported and that Parliament must guarantee that the accompanying common legislation endorses trustworthy, fair, accessible and human-centric technology

As the European Union moves ever closer to a digital future, and with Artificial Intelligence being more and more integrated into our daily lives, Labour MEP Josianne Cutajar sounded a note of warning that as AI is applied across different areas of our lives, the technology should remain human-centric at all costs.

In so doing, Cutajar told the European Parliament’s plenary session this week, AI could bring about new added benefits to everyday issues. 

According to Cutajar - who served as the Socialist & Democrats negotiator on the Tourism and Transport Committee for the report, ‘Digital future of Europe: digital single market and use of AI for European consumers’ – the technology could, for example, help with the mobility of persons with disabilities and even help ease traffic congestion and pollution, amongst numerous other applications.

Cutajar remarked in her plenary intervention this week how we are currently witnessing a technological revolution in the transport sector, being driven by artificial intelligence, which can be of great benefit to society. 

In terms of traffic, she said, “Not only can its use lead to fewer emissions, cost-efficient operations and safer roads but, importantly, this technology can also serve as an enabler for an inclusive mobility market for persons with disabilities.

“We are on the verge of a new era and no one should be left behind. What we also need are robust programs that help SMEs to truly reap the benefit of this change that is coming.”

In the resolution, MEPs underlined how digital innovation has to be strongly supported and that Parliament must guarantee that the accompanying common legislation endorses trustworthy, fair, accessible and human-centric technology, such as with an adequate degree of human control over algorithmic decision-making.

European SMEs, according to the resolution, need the right amount of support to benefit from new technologies, be it through testing facilities, better access to data, easier regulatory requirements or funding.

In the long-term, MEPs say, new technologies could help the transition to a circular and sustainable economy (by finding more circular business models, promoting energy efficiency of data processing and storage systems and optimising the use of resources), and have the potential to help meet the needs of urban, rural and isolated regions in the EU.

Since Europe’s future will undoubtedly be digital, Cutajar stresses that, “It is up to all players involved - from citizens, to businesses to legislators - to ensure that in the new Digital Single Market ensures that our EU values and principles are not only upheld, but are strengthened.

“Consumer protection, data privacy, non-discrimination and a transparent use of technology are non-negotiable.

The resolution on Europe’s digital future, which is expected to pass through Parliament later today without much ado - it had passed in Committee stage with 39 votes in favour and with five abstentions - calls on the European Commission to address such challenges posed by the digital transition of Europe.

Rapporteur Deidre Clune (EPP, IE) explains how, “Artificial Intelligence can be positive and transformative. It could help us to face many societal challenges - from treating diseases to minimising the environmental impact on farming.

“For AI to be successful in Europe, it needs to be trusted. We need to create the right environment for investment and innovation. We need to give businesses and start-ups room for innovation and support investment to realise the full potential of AI for consumers in the EU.

“Europe’s digital future and improving the use of AI will have a transformative effect across many sectors of society in the European Union.”

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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