Slovakia includes AI policies into a broader digitalisation strategy. In July 2019, the Slovakian Government published the Action plan for the digital transformation of Slovakia for 2019–2022 (Slovakia, 2019a). This action plan contains concrete steps to build a sustainable, human-centric, and trustworthy AI ecosystem within the long-term Strategy of the digital transformation of Slovakia 2030 (Slovakia, 2019b). While the strategy provides the broader picture, the action plan details concrete policy measures over the period 2019-2022.
The Slovakian Action Plan sets out the following list of short-term policy initiatives:
- Supporting the digital transformation of schools and education to promote skills for the digital era;
- Strengthening the digital basis of the data economy;
- Improving the capacity of public administrations to use data for the benefit of citizens;
- Supporting the AI ecosystem.
With regards to funding, the Analysis for budgetary implications for public administration (i.e. Analýza vplyvov na rozpočet verejnej správy) accompanies the Action plan with general information on government budget for the coming years. Precise estimates of AI budgets will come at a later stage.
The Slovakian strategy aims to stimulate an AI education in line with current and forthcoming needs of both public and private sectors. It proposes formal education and training reforms along the following initiatives:
- Reforming the education system to train employees for new professional requirements and satisfying the future labour demand. The plan is to explore and analyse emerging needs in order to make informed changes in educational paradigms and systems (e.g. teaching of algorithmic thinking, creativity and problem solving, teaching support, transformations at all levels of education);
- The Ministry of Education envisages a programme to digitalise the education until 2030 by means of updated ICT infrastructure for the education system and qualitative improvements to its programmes. On the latter point, AI subjects will enter educational programmes to stir digital competencies and skills;
- The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Investments, Regional Development and Informatisation of the Slovak Republic (MIRRI) are setting up an expert group to coordinate educational activities on AI. This expert group will examine international and Slovakian educational programmes in order to frame suitable reforms. Consultations with relevant stakeholders as school, public authorities and business sector will also feed the educational reforms;
- The MIRRI is launching in-house, off-the-shelf, and customised introductory courses on AI for the employees of the public sector. At present, these courses entail proof of concepts and they have various aims like – among others – building a national vocabulary of existing and emerging AI terms, and helping public employees to familiarise with the main AI concepts and regulatory trends.
Besides the strong emphasis on reforming the formal education systems, the Slovakian strategy also focuses on creating lifelong learning opportunities and vocational training in AI with the following actions:
- The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Labour are planning a policy initiative to support lifelong learning opportunities for employees. These ministries will collaborate with universities to scrutinise the new requirements (e.g., new technological and digital knowledge associated to AI) of the labour market and formulate specific trainings for both employed workforce and job seekers;
- The MIRRI will collaborate with relevant ministries to analyse the digital skills inside Slovakian SMEs and formulate standards to increase the digital literacy of SMEs’ employees.
From the lab to the market
The Slovakian strategy proposes the following policies to increase the research potential in AI of both public and private sectors:
- The MIRRI and other relevant ministries support the creation of a number of national platforms for AI research and usage, e.g. the Kinit.sk and the Slovak.AI platform, which will strengthen AI research and education further to attract international talents, increase networking opportunities and develop AI ethical principles;
- The MIRRI and relevant ministries will prepare and disseminate calls for grant on basic and applied research in AI. Direct financial support of this kind aims to increase the Slovakian’s research capacity in AI;
- The MIRRI will collaborate with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Economy to increase private sector research in AI by creating investment opportunities for AI companies and encourage the AI start-up ecosystem;
- The National Security Authority and the MIRRI are establishing a national competence and coordination centre for cyber security to develop new technologies like encryption and to evaluate the use of AI in automating security procedures.
Since turning high-potential ideas into successful products and services is as important as AI research, the Slovakian strategy envisages the following policies to increase the innovation potential in AI:
- The Ministry of Transport is establishing a range of policies to support smart mobility (e.g. self-driving cars and sophisticated transport services) allowing collaborations between public and private sectors to innovate in this particular field. An action plan will better define tasks, responsibilities and priorities of participating stakeholders. The Ministry is also:
- Assessing the need to review regulations for smart mobility;
- Setting up a Smart Mobility Lab to increase basic and applied research opportunities;
- Facilitating proofs of concepts in smart mobility and creating test environments for self-driving cars.
- The MIRRI and the Ministry of Economy are developing a manual to deploy AI with guidelines and hands-on support to companies that start using AI, this will improve the long-term innovativeness of Slovakian companies in AI;
- Finally, the Slovakian Government supports the following policies to foster innovations in the public sector:
- Establishing a platform, like the US public platform challenge.gov, where public administration could launch calls for innovative digital and AI solutions to fix issues they may be facing;
- Creating an open API platform to increase the variety of services for citizens, and to open data to a wider public enhancing the innovation potential of AI matters.
Many of the previous policies indirectly increase networking opportunities and partnership, however the Slovakian Government supports hubs and platforms also with the following direct actions:
- The MIRRI collaborates with the Slovakian Ministry of Economy and the IT Association of Slovakia, on a feasibility study to create the European Digital Innovation Hub in Slovakia;
- The creation of a civil organisations, such as Kinit.sk and Slovak.AI, to build an AI ecosystem by enhancing collaborations and networking.
The Slovakian strategy also has a dedicated policy to increase the international visibility of AI education by making it more accessible to foreign students:
- The Ministry of Education is launching an education initiative on AI to teach AI courses in English and with “blended learning” methods that would attract talented foreign students.
The MIRRI launched a web portal to collect AI project proposals from public sector institutions, so to measure the dissemination and uptake of AI in Slovakia. Soon the portal will also include analyses and summary details of the submitted projects. In addition, there will be a survey to measure AI uptake by companies and companies’ attitude towards AI.
Finally, the Slovakian strategy will use AI to prevent dissemination of fake news and disinformation:
- The Security Council will establish a working group on disinformation and fake news which is going to use AI technologies against disinformation and fake news.
Building trustworthy AI systems requires proper ethical guidelines aiming to define concepts of integrity, explainability, and reproducibility in AI. To this purpose, the Slovakian Government proposes to work on:
- Principles for a transparent and ethical use of AI: the objective of this policy launched by the MIRRI and the Ministry of Economy aims to define guidelines for a trustworthy use and responsible deployment of AI. Among others, the policy initiatives related to ethical guidelines will include:
- The launch of a public survey to obtain the point of view of citizens and companies on ethical AI. The results of the survey will help policy makers to define ethical guidelines;
- The MIRRI delivers on its commitment to ethical and trustworthy AI by appointing members of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Regulation of AI (CERAI). The Commission was established as an independent, professional and advisory body of MIRRI;
- The MIRRI collaborates with international and European platforms, such as the Ad hoc Committee on Artificial Intelligence (CAHAI), to address gender and algorithmic biases to enhance societal equality and to work on an international framework of solutions.
In addition, the action plan emphasises the need for a modernisation of regulations and legislation. In general, the Slovak Government advocates the creation of a goal-oriented and dynamic regulation that leaves more freedom for experimentation. Such a dynamic regulation would enhance the scope for innovative developments and would be less restrictive in an environment that is rapidly changing due to constant evolving technologies. To this purpose, the strategy proposes:
- The development of a legal framework for data: the MIRRI is currently preparing a new Act on Data to better define regulations on data protection, disclosure principles, data access and open data regulations;
- A revision of the regulatory environment for AI: an advisory group consisting of experts from academia, businesses and governmental institutions will be set up to provide dedicated recommendations on the need to revise the current legislation, in particular on issues such as data management, cyber security and intellectual property;
- The MIRRI coordinates national efforts across ministries and public bodies in response to the recently published European proposal for a legal framework on AI.
One of the main goals of the Slovakian strategy is to become a dynamic data economy since data is the fuel for a successful development of AI. To this purpose, the Slovakian Government will put in place digital data platforms to let high-quality and trustworthy data accessible for the needs of AI. The strategy includes the following policy initiatives for the data economy:
- Creating an Institute for trustworthy data to provide open access to high value databases from the public administration after controlling validity, constancy and credibility of the data;
- The MIRRI will provide public administration with analytical tools for data management. So, the public administration will receive user-friendly SQL and machine learning tools for data simulations, visualisations and statistical calculations to facilitate policy making. With this help, end-users in the public sector can run data analytics without technical issues on data management;
- Setting up a Personal Information Management System (PIMS), a centralised data repository with data collected by the public administration about citizens. The PIMS will comply with data protection and data sharing regulations by allowing citizens to give their consent on these issues;
- The Ministry of Environment is setting up a platform for sharing harmonised spatial data in compliance with the INSPIRE directive.
Lastly, the Slovakian strategy envisages actions to boost the digital and telecommunication infrastructure:
- Setting up a national high-performance computing competence centre, and participating to the European EuroHPC that pools European resources to develop supercomputers;
- Supporting the completion of a gigabit fibre infrastructure and the 5G for Europe Action Plan. Both initiatives aim to increase internet connectivity and achieve the goals of the EU gigabit society.
AI to address societal challenges
Climate and environment
The non-profit institute KInIT, founded in 2020, is dedicated to intelligent technology research. It brings together and nurture experts in AI and other areas of computer science, with connections to other disciplines, such as information security, web and user data processing (including false information and malicious behaviour modelling), processing and comprehension of natural language, data analysis for green energy, ethics and human values in intelligent technologies.
The Slovak Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Slovak.AI was created in 2019 to support excellence in the field of AI by bringing together all relevant stakeholders such as businesses, research communities, and governmental institutions. In this endeavour, the platform highlights the increasing importance of AI in solving major societal challenges such as climate change, safety, health, and food security.
In July 2020, the President of the Republic of Slovenia was on a visit in Bratislava to strengthen the relationship between Slovakia and Slovenia. During his visit, a Slovenian-Slovak business forum was held with individual business meetings between participants from both countries. Both Slovenia and Slovakia attach great importance to sustainable development, with an emphasis on the green agenda and digitalisation and in particular on the circular economy, smart technologies, e-mobility and AI. Slovak companies will exchange views with Slovenian companies on breakthrough solutions in these areas.
A government page provides digital screening tools to check symptoms and find relevant information about COVID. A portal for education also guides pupils and their families throughout the school trainings interrupted by the pandemic.
Monitoring and future update
The Slovakian Government will monitor policy implementations on annual basis. It will update the AI measures of the national Action Plan in accordance with the 2021 review of the Coordinated Plan on AI.
The Slovakian Government recently published a strategy and action plan to improve Slovakia's position in the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) until 2025, which covers and extends part of the existing measures of the national AI strategy outlined above.
Slovakia (2019a). Action plan for the digital transformation of Slovakia for 2019 –2022. Government of Slovak Republic. https://www.mirri.gov.sk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/AP-DT-English-Version-FINAL.pdf
Slovakia (2019b). Strategy of the Digital Transformation of Slovakia 2030. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic for Investments and information. https://www.mirri.gov.sk/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Brochure-SMALL.pdf