The Norwegian Government presented its National AI strategy in January 2020 (Norway, 2020a). The objective of the strategy is to outline the policy actions for the coming years in order to maximise the opportunities that AI can bring along for Norwegian individuals, for businesses and industry, and for the public sector. To achieve this outcome, the national AI strategy highlights the following policy initiatives:
- Expanding the offer of education programmes and workplace trainings in the field of AI in order to create a solid basis of digital skills and capabilities;
- Strengthening the Norwegian research in AI;
- Enhancing the innovation capacity in AI in both the private and public sector;
- Outlining ethical principles for AI in order to allow fair, reliable and trustworthy AI-related developments;
- Establishing digitalisation-friendly regulations as to define the legislative framework in which AI developments take place;
- Constructing a strong data infrastructure ensuring open data and data sharing across sectors and business areas. Dedicated opportunities for language data resources are established through The Norwegian language bank at the National library;
- Deploying a telecommunication infrastructure that provides high-capacity connectivity and computing power, and that ensures security in AI-based systems.
While the national AI strategy mentions various provisions to finance specific projects, it does not provide the total amount of funding for the implementation of the strategy.
The AI strategy strongly emphasised the need for increased digital competence at all levels of education and for those already employed. In order to prepare the current and ongoing workforce with the appropriate digital skills and technological literacy, the Norwegian Government has started reforming education programmes at all education levels. At the primary and secondary education level, the Norwegian Government foresees the following:
- Increased prominence of digital skills at schools: curricula of primary and secondary education have been reformed as to include more programming and computational thinking.
At the level of tertiary education, the Norwegian Government are setting up support funding to which universities and higher education institutions can apply to develop further education programmes. In addition to introducing education reforms, it is equally important to establish a solid knowledge base of the available programmes in AI and to monitor the offer and trends in study places and candidates in AI. Policy initiatives towards the adaptation of education programmes include among others:
- Expanding ICT-related programmes. The number of new study places for ICT has increased by more than 2,150 compared to 2014. The seats of higher learning are developing dedicated programmes in the field of AI at bachelor and master level, with subjects as algorithms, robotics, machine learning, computer vision, deep learning and big data analysis. The number of student places in these areas are increasing each year as a result of rising demand both from students and industry;
- Offering comprehensive education opportunities to schoolteachers in AI through the Centre for Computing in Science Education (CSSE) and Centre for Teaching and Learning in Science and Technology (KURT). An example of such course is ProFag programming course in AI-related subjects for schoolteachers;
- Increasing opportunities for PhD positions on AI-related topics and allowing employees (Industrial PhD scheme) to undertake a PhD project that is relevant to their company’s profile.
As AI is expected to bring about changes in many jobs, the Norwegian strategy also highlights the importance of anticipating the pace of change to the labour market and preparing for the future labour demand. Hence, opportunities for upskilling, reskilling, and lifelong learning are put in place. In particular, the following initiatives are presented:
- A report to the Storting – the supreme legislature of Norway – on skills reforms and lifelong learning (in Norwegian only). The report outlines a concrete action plan and policy initiatives to close the gap between what the labour market needs in terms of skills and the skills that employees actually have;
- Funding for the development of flexible continuing education schemes that are geared towards the needs of the jobs market, particularly the skills that are required to digitalise businesses. In 2021, initiatives that will enhance digital competencies, Cyber security and green transition / sustainability skills will be prioritised;
- Leveraging the benefits of massive open online courses (MOOCs). In this respect, the online course on Elements of AI has been launched in Norwegian in 2020 in cooperation with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). The Minister for Regional Development and Digitalisation has also endorsed the follow-up course Building AI in Norway;
- Preparing a strategy for digital competence in the public sector.
Overall, the provision of study programmes and workplace trainings in AI should aim to anticipate the needs in the labour market and to integrate AI into established study programmes and job positions where relevant.
From the lab to the market
The promotion of scientific research is essential to achieve ground-breaking innovations in AI. To this end, the Norwegian Research Council allocated a budget of EUR 145.7 million to research, innovation and advanced ICT applications in 20181. Although the Research Council has no dedicated programme towards AI funding, 40 percent of budget allocations to ICT research in 2019 have been targeting projects related to AI, robotics and big data, which represents a total amount around EUR 40 million. The following policy initiatives and action plans are proposed to leverage AI research in Norway:
- The Norwegian Centre for Research-Based Artificial Intelligence Innovation (SFI NorwAI) has been launched in 2020. It is a new research centre on AI and big data. The purpose of the centre is to develop cutting-edge theories, methods and technologies for efficient and responsible use of data-driven AI in innovative industrial solutions. NorwAI is run as an integral and complementary part of the Norwegian Open AI Lab (NAIL), both of which are formally hosted by the Department of Computer Science at NTNU.
- Increasing long-term research opportunities in AI-relevant technologies through dedicated research centres, such as the programme BigInsight – Statistics for the knowledge economy and Sirius – Centre for Scalable Data Access and dScience - Centre for Computational and Data Science at the University of Oslo (UiO). Among others these centres address topics of statistical and machine learning methodologies, scalable data access and high-performance computing;
- Stimulating private investments in research through deductible tax schemes for donations to scientific research;
- Increasing the participation in European research programmes. To this end, the Research Council of Norway has established the Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Network for Europe (NAINE). The goal is to promote Norway’s priorities and increase its participation in Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe.
Besides stimulating scientific research in AI, the Norwegian Government takes a strong position in enhancing the country’s innovation capacity using AI. At the level of the private sector, policy instruments aim to support businesses in developing and adopting AI technologies. While the Research Council of Norway is more dedicated towards promoting research, other institutions are more directed to the encouragement of innovation, value creation and growth in businesses and industry:
- Innovation Norway: supports companies in developing their competitive advantage and enhancing innovation. In recent years, Innovation Norway’s portfolio has seen a growth in the number of digital projects. In 2020 the number of ICT projects tripled compared to 2019. In terms of AI, it has established the Tech City Executive Accelerator (TEA) initiative providing international scaling and support for companies oriented towards AI and IoT;
- The Industrial Development Corporation of Norway (Siva): a governmental corporation that aims to unleash the national innovation capability through support from incubators, business gardens and accelerator schemes (e.g. Norwegian Catapult scheme);
- Investinor: state-owned venture capital company providing various types of venture capital support schemes.
The national AI strategy provides various examples of projects in which policy support was given to promote innovation efforts. Earth Science Analytics AS leads an industry innovation project on machine learning in seismology that received governmental funding through the PETROMAKS 2 programme.
Furthermore, innovation efforts are encouraged through the tax incentive scheme SkatteFUNN. Although not specifically directed towards AI, SkatteFUNN allows all businesses to apply for a tax deduction for their R&D expenses. It is a rights based scheme that favours SMEs in particular.
Lastly, in 2018 the national government has released a comprehensive review of business policy instruments (in Norwegian only) directed to promote value creation and sustainable innovation throughout the country. The recommendations from the review aim to make the policy instruments simpler to understand and accessible to businesses.
With respect to the public administration, the national government emphasises the tremendous potential of AI in disrupting the way in which the public sector will work in the future. In particular AI in the public sector can contribute to enhance decision-making, and improve the efficiency and quality of services through the use of e.g. natural language processing and predicting tools. To fully leverage the benefits of AI in the public sector, the national AI strategy foresees the following policies:
- Facilitating the experimentation with and adoption of AI in public administration. Examples of projects using AI in the public sector:
- AI in residence verification: A project conducted by the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund (Lånekassen) for the residential verification process of students using machine learning tools;
- Automatic posting of invoices: The Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management (DFØ) is testing solutions of automatic posting of invoices using AI technologies;
- Enhancing the possibilities of innovative public procurements.
To increase the networking and collaboration opportunities, following policy initiatives are proposed:
- Facilitating the development of Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs): During Horizon 2020, Norway established four DIHs, affiliated with GCE NODE in Agder, SINTEF, Oslo Cancer Cluster and Digital Norway, acting as enablers for SMEs. A new generation of DIHs will be launched soon, from which some will be directed to leverage the potential of AI;
- Providing support to networking opportunities, such as the informal learning arenas: Eik idéverksted, which is a platform that brings together academics and business communities and offers a range of courses, workshops, seminars and projects on technological innovation;
- Strengthening the Norwegian AI Research Consortium (NORA): a consortium that comprises Norwegian universities and research institutions engaged in research and education in AI;
- Encouraging sharing of good practices across sectors and enterprises and facilitating public-private partnerships. It is a crucial policy to unlock the innovation potential of AI. One initiative in the pipeline is the establishment of the Digital Clearinghouse Norway, a cooperation forum for consumer, competition and data protection enforcement bodies. In addition, the Norwegian Digitalisation Agency (Difi) can serve as a pivot institution in establishing common use cases/user journeys and sharing of good practices;
- Supporting organisations that facilitate networking and collaborations such as DigitalNorway, which helps businesses in their digital transformation and provides guidance throughout the innovation process. It cooperates with research and educational institutions, business clusters and innovation communities;
- Forum for AI in the public sector – a forum for practitioners working on AI in the public sector.
The national AI strategy aims to encourage the development and use of AI based on ethical principles and with respect for human rights and democracy. This does not only call for a strong ethical framework, but also requires a solid regulatory governance to ensure that individual and collective rights are enforced.
In terms of ethical principles, the Norwegian Government aims to promote responsible, accountable, transparent, and trustworthy AI, while safeguarding the integrity and privacy of individuals. To this purpose, the following policy initiatives are foreseen:
- Developing guidelines for trustworthy use of AI, in line with the recommendations made by the High-Level Expert Group on Artificial Intelligence set up by the European Commission;
- To complement these ethical principles, a report on research ethics has been recently published by the National Committee for Research Ethics in Science and Technology. It outlines ethical guidelines related to the responsible use of autonomous systems, social responsible research and big data;
- Encouraging the educational institutions to consider how privacy and ethics can be given a central place in their programmes in AI;
- Participating to European and international forums to promote a trustworthy AI environment, notably aligning efforts to and engaging with international institutions such as the European Commission, the United Nations, the OECD, the Council of Europe and the Nordic Council of Ministers and Nordic–Baltic cooperation;
- Stimulating the public debate on the ethical use of AI.
In terms of regulation, the national AI strategy emphasises the need to modernise the existing legislative framework to adjust to the coming needs of new technological developments such as AI. It is important to develop a legislation that is technology-neutral where possible. Where legislation cannot be generalised, sector-specific or technology-specific rules should be put in place. The following policy initiatives address regulation that is relevant to AI:
- Developing digitalisation-friendly regulations that solves challenges of semantic interoperability across sectors. The access and control of data is for instance regulated through the Personal Data Act and other sector-specific regulations such as the Health Register Act;
- Expanding the regulations in the health care sector regarding the use of health data. Two proposals have been put forward to make secondary use of health data easier for analysis and decision making. The first proposal to enable the Health Data Programme and the Health analysis data platform took effect in January 2021. The second proposal proposes amendments to the Health Personnel Act regarding the Duty of confidentiality and the right of disclosure in order to enable the use of algorithms for decision support on health data. This is still ongoing;
- Proposing regulatory sandboxes in AI: specific legislation to allow for testing, developing and monitoring AI concepts in a protected environment. In 2020 the Norwegian Data Protection Authority (DPA) established a regulatory sandbox for AI in order to promote the development of ethical and responsible AI solutions. A call for projects received 25 applications, from which four projects have been chosen to work together with the DPA in the sandbox in the first round;
- During the COVID-19 crisis, a temporary regulation that authorised fully automatic processing was added to the National Insurance Act. Many of the new solutions that were established by the Labour and Welfare administration (NAV) to tackle the challenges associated with COVID-19 are fully automatic. In the autumn of 2020, the Storting adopted a government proposal to permit fully automatic case processing in NAV on a permanent basis. The statute was added to the NAV Act and entered into force on 4 December 2020;
- Developing a regulatory framework for the public sector, building on the recommendations of the Digital strategy for the public sector 2019-2025 (Norway, 2020b);
- Considering the recommendations from the Law Commission on the Archival Act (in Norwegian only) and the Law Commission on the Public Administration Act (in Norwegian only). These legislations aim to provide transparency and accountability in public administration systems where AI is used.
Besides the development of a legal framework and ethical rules for AI, the national strategy of Norway highlights the importance of standardisation to foster interoperability and coordination among various economic players. To this aim, the following policies are essential:
- Developing guidelines on standardisation, including IPR, to facilitate collaborations in AI in the business sector;
- Promoting and participating to international standardisation activities related to AI, in particular for Norwegian SMEs.
As highlighted in the national AI strategy, data is a vital element for AI as it acts as the cornerstone on which AI technologies are built upon. This calls for the development of a strong data ecosystem to improve the collection of quality data, to facilitate data sharing and to promote open data policies. The national AI strategy foresees the following policies:
- Promoting and further expanding open public data and data sharing between public-sector agencies through initiatives such as National Data Directory on https://data.norge.no/, the Health analysis platform with national health data and geospatial data on Geonorge.no;
- The Agency for Digitalisation (Digdir), in cooperation with Digital Norway, created a Data Factory that serves as a knowledge hub to promote data sharing industry. The Data Factory supports small companies to develop business ideas and create value from data and data sharing;
- Encouraging data sharing between businesses in the private sector by providing clear guidance on issues related to data protection, privacy and security;
- Supporting and developing data sharing methods and standards.
A report to the Storting on the data-driven economy (in Norwegian only) was presented to the parliament in March 2021.
Understanding that the deployment of AI will need the support of a solid infrastructure, the national AI strategy presents a range of policies to foster the quality and capacity of the telecommunication and ICT infrastructure in Norway. In April 2021 the government put forward a report to the Storting on mobile, broadband and internet services (in Norwegian only), focusing especially on the need for secure and robust electronic communication services:
- Expanding the high-speed broadband network and supporting the rollout of 5G infrastructure;
- Setting a new target that 100 per cent of households and businesses should have access to 100 Mbit/s by 2025. The old target of 90 per cent being offered high-speed broadband of more than 100 Mbit/s was reached in 2020;
- Participating in pan-European initiatives for the development of high-performance computing such as the EuroHPC initiative;
- Establishing data centres with cutting-edge telecommunication infrastructure to facilitate the access to computing power and cloud services.
The increasing use of data and computing power in the digital society requires appropriate policy mechanisms towards security. The national AI strategy of Norway foresees the following policies to maximise the efficiency of cyber security:
- Developing Norway's capacity to detect and respond to cyber-attacks using AI, in line with the recommendations made in the National strategy for cyber security and the National strategy for cyber security competence (in Norwegian only);
- Expanding the role of the Norwegian National Security Authority (NSM) to the provision of guidance to enhance security in AI-based systems.
AI to address societal challenges
Climate and environment
The Norwegian National AI strategy explicitly envisages investments in AI within areas Norway has distinctive advantages like health, seas and oceans, public administration, oil and gas, energy and mobility. The Norwegian Government wants to facilitate the development of data centres in Norway. Norway offers scalable access to renewable energy for such enterprises. Several initiatives are ongoing or planned and use AI to promote a more sustainable environment:
- Supporting the creation of educational programmes both for digital skills and for employees who must adapt their skills as a result of digitalisation and the transition to a green society;
- Encouraging investments in autonomous ships: the Norwegian shipping industry is moving towards autonomous shipping. These ships will be fully autonomous as they will be remotely controlled using AI-related technologies and will emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions, improve local air quality and produce less noise. The state-owned institution ENOVA has for instance provided around EUR 11 million to establish an autonomous transport chain across the Oslo fjord.
Efforts to lift Norwegian companies into the future and to support AI-based technologies promoting sustainable development, include the creation of the Cluster for Applied AI. It is a specialised industrial cluster initiated by Smart Innovation Norway and .the Norwegian Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) among other research partners. Kjell Reidar Mydske, Head of the Cluster for Applied AI, highlights several successful use-cases from the industry that develop sustainable AI solutions:
- The company Völur is using AI to obtain smarter and greener food value chains in the food production industry. AI helps to increase the efficiency of meat production, which can reduce the climate footprint from agriculture;
- The company eSmart Systems, is transforming the landscape of energy provision through the development of AI-powered electricity grids. AI is used to detect and geo-locate defections to the grid which significantly improves the maintenance of the distribution infrastructure and energy consumption;
- The company Spacemaker develops an AI-based solution that generates building sites with a more sustainable urban planning, and companies such as Loopfront and Material Mapper use AI to facilitate re-use of building materials from demolishing sites, thus facilitating the circular economy;Companies Scantrol Deep Vision and CreateView are both active in the fish industry. The former developed an AI-powered tool for a more efficient and sustainable fish catch, while the latter uses AI-driven image sensors to reduce both production costs and the ecological footprint in aquaculture.
Also within the scientific research community, Norway is increasingly using AI in the fields of energy and climate. Researchers from the national Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo (CICERO) has for instance started to employ machine learning to deepen climate and environmental issues. Finally, SINTEF, established a whole cluster of AI projects among which SEAVENTION is about the management of operations underwater and resource management by means of autonomous functions.
Within the scientific research community, the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research (NSE) has the goal to accelerate the development and implementation of policy on eHealth, especially employing technologies of AI to enable the reuse of data for the creation of an intelligent healthcare system that learns from its own data and can shape healthcare into a continuously improving system.
From the business perspective, NEC OncoImmunity (NOI) has for instance adapted their cancer-fighting AI technology to combat COVID-19. This company has received advice and support from the community of the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, which is supported by the Norwegian Government.
Finally, COVID-19 has been highlighted as a catalyst for digitalisation in a report released in May 2021 by the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation (Norway, 2021). The report showcases initiatives that can contribute to or inspire digital business development in all parts of the country.
Monitoring and future update
The Norwegian strategy is intended to unlock to full potential of AI for citizens, business communities and public administration. Its implementation and progress will be regularly monitored and adjusted where needed with additional policies in the field of AI. The strategy does not mention the frequency on which updated strategy reports will be released.
Norway (2021). Our New Digital World: Digitalisation in Norway during the Coronavirus pandemic. Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/var-nye-digitale-kvardag/id2828388/
Norway (2020). National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/nasjonal-strategi-for-kunstig-intelligens/id2685594/
Norway (2019). One digital public sector: Digital strategy for the public sector 2019–2025. Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation. https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/one-digital-public-sector/id2653874/
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