Innovation and politics: an intertwined relationship
Politics has a significant influence on innovation. Policy makers and legislators are the ones who determine how and to what extent innovation and technology are adopted at the national level.
Within the EU, Estonia is one of the exemplary countries that has been able to bring the whole country to a different level of digitization. The roadmap to fully digital government and seamless electronic citizen transactions has evolved steadily over the past two decades.
By providing digital services to citizens such as the electronic tax filing system, among many other services, Estonia could elevate its government processes to a whole new level of efficiency.
The Estonian model differs from the typical model in Europe and that is why it is used as a case study for other European countries in the EU who have realized the need to digitize government transactions partly because of the last pandemic.
One of the underlying factors for embracing more innovation in politics and state management is the will of the government. Many local and federal governments across the EU are showing an increased willingness to advance the way they work and interact with their citizens and are more than ever open to adopting innovative technologies and processes that would enable them to achieve their goals.
Belgian civic tech company Citizen Lab, for example, works with more than 400 local governments who want to better engage their citizens in decision-making through their white-label web platforms powered by data science and analytics.
Policy makers obviously play a big role in determining the future and direction of policy innovation. The AI (artificial intelligence) law proposed on April 21, 2021 by the European Commission is one of the most questionable and controversial proposals of the current mandate.
The regulation of AI will have a huge impact on its application in any country and this process is time consuming due to the various uncertainties and complexities involved. Ultimately, politics plays an important role in this process.
One of the interesting points that demonstrates the complexity of negotiating the terms of AI law is how some machine learning models repeat controversial decisions made in history instead of creating new and better decisions. that correct the injustice of the past.
AI bias or human bias?
For example, when it comes to employment, many AI models that have been trained to help HR managers make hiring decisions have been found to be biased simply because the actual employment data they themselves were biased and not diversified enough.
Prioritizing equal employment opportunities, such as the employment of women and underrepresented groups in the technology sector, leads us to question the effectiveness of AI in achieving the desired diversity.
Thus, some of the political controversies revolve around the extent to which humans can and should trust AI to help them make important decisions or even to make such decisions on their behalf.
Ultimately, one of the goals of policy makers should be to ensure that AI is used to correct some of the past mistakes and to avoid reproducing human biases or repeating history even when historical data are distorted.
Despite the EU’s general desire to embrace more innovation at policy level as well as at other levels, and in light of the difficulties that policy makers face in determining the best use of new technological trends, it there is still a long way to go.
Nonetheless, it is eminent that Europe has uniquely positioned itself in the aftermath of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as it simultaneously pushes for strategic autonomy and a more people- and planet-centric economy, where social innovation is gaining significant momentum.
Some inspiring moves in this direction are emerging public funds supporting innovation for social good, such as the Prototype Fund in Berlin. The Sovereign Tech Fund, also based in Berlin, supports the construction of a more robust and sustainable technology infrastructure and, like the Prototype Fund, harnesses and strengthens the private technology sector.
These observations and living examples from Europe confirm the importance of lobbying and advocating with heads of government and ministries, wherever we are in the world, to achieve the goals of progress and prosperity to which we aspire, in particular in in social and political innovation. .