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The European Commission published its first version of a coordinated European AI plan in February 2019, which was welcomed by the European Competitiveness Council . At about the same time, Flanders also took the initiative to draft its own plan to support and stimulate all kinds of activities around AI. After all, AI is considered as a technology of the future.

Thanks to the advancing digitization of society and the evolution in a number of underlying technologies (including ever stronger computers and smartphones thanks to more powerful chips,  faster networks, higher connectivity between all kinds of devices thanks to 5G,  the ever-growing amount of data, the successful use of new algorithms,  ... )  AI applications for both companies and individuals are increasingly finding their way into all kinds of domains and sectors.

This technological evolution is accompanied by a number of societal questions and requires policy choices on ethical issues, employment, education and training. With its own form of "ethical and human centric AI", the European Union wants to offer an alternative to a purely market-driven form of AI (as mainly used in the United States) and a state-directed form of AI (as used in China).

The following documents were at the basis of the Flemish AI plan:

The Flemish Government was of the opinion that Flanders could not miss this opportunity, especially as Flanders already holds fairly strong assets in the field of research into AI by its universities, strategic research centres and business. That is why the Flemish Government decided in May 2019 to create a large-scale and long-term programme around AI in Flanders with a yearly budget of 32 million euros, on top of subsidies awarded by Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO) and Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) to AI proposals through their regular funding instruments. The Flemish AI plan subscribes to the European strand of "ethnic and human-centred" AI.

In February 2021, the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV) published a comprehensive international survey of the socio-economic impact of AI (in Dutch only). The report describes the potential socio-economic impact of AI on the economy, labour market and competences, education, HRM and government from an international perspective. The Flemish AI policy plan is also discussed (in chapter 14 "AI and the government"). The SERV plans to delve deeper into this theme, and hopes that this report will lead to adequate policy measures.


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Peter Spyns

Afdeling Strategie en Coördinatie
0495 25 61 90

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