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EU chief urges Europe to boost AI initiatives at Davos
Thu, 18th Jan 2024

EU Chief Ursula von der Leyen made a plea for Europe to improve its standing in the realm of AI technology at the opening day of this year's World Economic Forum in Davos. Speaking before attendees, she expressed her belief that disinformation and misinformation will pose a significant threat to the global business community over the next two years. Yet, she also stated her optimism towards the technology, asserting that it presents a monumental opportunity if developed and used responsibly.

Von der Leyen emphasised the need for Europe to bolster its AI initiatives, stating, "Our future competitiveness depends on AI adoption in our daily business and Europe must up its game and show the way to responsible use of AI." This call to action follows her observation on the potential effects of AI, including increased productivity and economic growth.

On the topic of AI, Chinese Premier Li Qiang who spoke before Von der Leyen, voiced his agreement with the necessity of responsible AI advancement. He expressed concern about AI technology being feared or misused and advised that it must be controlled to ensure that machines do not control humans. This, he affirmed, can only be guaranteed by effective policy and appropriate regulation.

Among the experts reacting to Von der Leyen’s statement was Sridhar Iyengar, MD for Zoho Europe. Iyengar concurred with the views expressed at the forum, stating, "It is good to see AI as a central discussion point at the World Economic Forum annual meeting." He described AI as a significant opportunity for businesses to boost customer experience through chatbots and enhance forecasting through pattern and data analysis, among other benefits.

He also highlighted the importance of safety in AI technologies, adding, "The AI Safety Summit held in the UK in November echoed safety concerns regarding AI. Zoho has been a longstanding advocate of safe and trustworthy AI given the risks it poses. The WEF annual meeting provides an excellent platform to debate potential policies and guidance in ensuring AI safety." Iyengar went on to cite a study by Zoho which reported that 46 per cent of UK businesses respondents called for increased AI regulations to protect businesses.

Sheila Flavell CBE, Chief Operating Officer for FDM Group, also commented on the AI discussion. She acknowledged the rapid pace of AI development and the consequent pressures on businesses to incorporate the technology or risk falling behind. To help businesses meet this challenge, Flavell emphasised the need for training and resources to upskill and reskill workers, stating, "This can empower staff to lead AI development and implementation for businesses, boosting efficiency and supporting overall business growth."

While the current AI breakthroughs are largely led by the US and China, the European Union is actively developing a draft AI Act. This is intended to serve as a potential global template for regulating the fast-evolving technology. This development comes in the wake of EU Chief von der Leyen's urging for Europe to improve its AI game at the World Economic Forum.