Finland leading the way into the age of artificial intelligence

The introduction and use of artificial intelligence offer huge potential for society and the economy and can act as a major force for change. Artificial intelligence can help us to solve global problems, create wellbeing and boost economic growth, while at the same time creating new ethics challenges at different levels of society. Our actions and our choices will determine whether artificial intelligence can live up to its potential and how we can minimise its potential risks. We must make active decisions on how to develop artificial intelligence technologies and how to apply them and we should not hesitate when implementing the decisions. We should aim at a human-centric and trust-generating way of applying artificial intelligence in different sectors.

The Government of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä made artificial intelligence as one of its key projects . Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä launched the Artificial Intelligence Programme in May 2017. In October of the same year, we presented the first eight key actions for making Finland one of the leaders in the application of artificial intelligence. This work was later supplemented with separate analyses and recommendations for measures on the future of work, ethics and security. It is now time to review the situation: What has been achieved? What has been learned? What should we do next?

It is clear that we should do many things without delay and also speed up the pioneering projects so that we can learn how to apply artificial intelligence in the way we want. At the same time, we should also initiate long-term changes and ensure that the development process encompassing the business world and society at large will continue. We should also make Finnish society ready for the next development wave of artificial intelligence.

The publication of this report marks the move from setting up the programme to the next stage in which the lessons learned should be extensively incorporated into everyday work. The Finnish companies taking part in the work have emphasised that the building artificial intelligence capabilities should not aim at creating separate artificial intelligence units in organisations but to provide all those involved in the daily work, from the management groups down, with more expertise and understanding. This is also true at the level of society. This report, which is based on the lessons learned in the programme work, describes how artificial intelligence expertise can be incorporated into daily work and daily life.

The Artificial Intelligence Programme has shown the way for development in Finland but at the same time we are also making our experiences available internationally. Finland is one of the first countries in Europe to launch a national artificial intelligence programme. We have been doing this work at the right time and the fact that the concept ‘Finland’s age of artificial intelligence’ has been built on practical work and the actors’ own needs makes the Artificial Intelligence Programme interesting in global scale. Finland has been one of the first countries to prepare a national artificial intelligence strategy but we have also accumulated a great deal of experience of how the legislation and companies’ own action impact the process or what it means to be a pioneer.

During the writing of this report and the summing up of the programme results, we have once again been impressed by the effectiveness and power of online action. The Artificial Intelligence Programme itself set in motion a broad range of different issues, which created the core network. However, at the same time, a great deal was already happening. By building a network of networks operating model summing up the situation and bringing together all key artificial intelligence activities, we were able to produce the overall picture essential for the work. This overall picture helped us to establish links with other AI parties and to identify gaps in the work taking place at national level. Irrespective of the nature of the next steps at national level, we believe that maintaining this overall AI picture and identifying the new measures important at each moment of time on its basis are key to ensuring that Finland can remain at the forefront of artificial intelligence development.

Special thanks go to the steering group of the Artificial Intelligence Programme, the chairs of the five sub-groups, the secretaries supporting them (who also worked as members of the core team) and the more than 100 experts participating in the work of the sub-groups. Without a strongly committed core team of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, it would have been impossible for us to remain on top of things. In addition to a large number of projects, pilots and concrete achievements, we can also be particularly proud of the network created for the programme. This provides a good basis for us as we are proceeding to the next stage on our way towards the age of artificial intelligence.

Pekka Ala-Pietilä
Programme Chair

Ilona Lundström
Programme Deputy Chair

Report in PDF format