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Artificial Intelligence: The Italian National Strategy Revisited



Increasing trust in and adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are necessary ingredients for economic growth and the fuel for future innovations that can benefit society as a whole. In this complex context which stimulates and promotes the use and dissemination of AI technologies, also Italy has developed its AI national strategy as part of the Coordinated Plan launched by the European Commission in December 2018. Over the period until now, the Italian government has stressed the importance of discussing about the specific approach that the country should adopt to fully benefit from the advantages of AI, while mitigating the risks that are often associated with its use. As prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic pointed out in his report: “Artificial Intelligence is essentially a dual-use technology and its mighty implications, either positive or negative, will be increasingly hard to anticipate, frame, and restrain, let alone mitigate and regulate” (The answer to AI is intergovernmental Multilateralism, New Europe, Brussels, March 2020).

Therefore, a national strategy is more than ever essential because AI can represent the starting point for a new edge filled with economic, social and cultural prosperity for Italy. To date, the country has been struggling to keep up with the other major European economies either from the point of view of the industrial production or companies competitiveness.

To make the matter worse, the Italian economy does not seem to be heading towards an important sustainable development yet, which represents a long-standing issue for its society: the growing poverty and the inequality go hand in hand with an increasing gap between North and South and a strong need for investments in infrastructures and social and environmental policies. In sight of this, Italy is leverage the development of AI and related digital technologies to earn a golden opportunity in inaugurating a new social, economic and environmental “spring”.

The official document picturing the national strategy – performed by an experts team at ministry of Economic Development – consists of three parts: the first one shows an analytical overview upon the global market, with a focus on the European and national framework in terms of AI; the second part itemises the paramount principles of the strategy which inspired the experts in formulating the proposals: humanism (human beings at the centre), reliability and sustainability; the third and last part examines the policy to be adopted and sets out the proposals for the implementation, monitoring and communication of the Italian strategy.

In detail, the work of the experts has drawn up 82 proposals (also called “recommendations”) which take into account the peculiarities of the Italian system and tend to reconcile the international competitiveness with a sustainable development, in compliance with the European guidelines for a reliable, resilient and anthropocentric AI. These proposals/recommendations have, specifically, the purpose of “allowing Italy to start a phase of economic, social and environmental renaissance, marked by a focus on sustainability and by the digital transformation of the institutional and socio-economic business of the country”.

Below, an excerpt of the most significant proposals – in my opinion – contained in the Italian AI strategic plan.

Recommendation 3

In line with the European trends, the primacy of the human being over AI technology is affirmed and must be understood as a support to humans and not a substitute for them.

Recommendation 5

The Italian strategy puts its focus on embedded AI (as known also as “edge AI”), or those artificial intelligence systems that are present directly on the device (embedded, precisely). In the broadest terms, Embedded Intelligence is the definition of a self-referential process in which a specific system or program has the ability to analyse and refine its operations on its own.

Recommendation 10

It promotes the institution of a central body for the coordination of European initiatives and the definition of a national pattern for AI technologies development.

Recommendations from 11 to 16

Italy must invest in digital education by promoting up-to-date and qualified classes of teachers and learners on the subject of digital technologies, inaugurating new national degree courses on AI and up-skilling and re-skilling the workforce. This latter will allow an increasing number of people a job opportunity in this new technological field.

Recommendations 23 and 27

These proposals encourage information campaigns – both in Italian and English language – in order to make the national population aware of the main characteristics, opportunities and risks determined by the use of AI. In support of these recommendations, the Government will create a national platform – accessible to all citizens – as a permanent consultation/information tool on AI issues.

Recommendation 29

Italy should adopt the Trustworthy AI Impact Assessment (TAIA), currently studied at European level, as a risk assessment tool. The “actors” – those ones who use AI technologies – will perform a real risk assessment by identifying, first, the risks deriving from their activity and then indicating the strategies adopted to mitigate negative impacts.

Recommendation 38

The experts have highlighted the advantages through the creation of an Italian Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IIIA) for the research and the transfer of AI applications to companies and the Public Administration.

Recommendations 47-48

These recommendations are aimed at enhancing public tools (such as development contracts and innovation agreements) to support investments and strengthen public and private support for venture capital.

Recommendations from 55 to 68

It is a group of recommendations with a focus on data, on the optimization of their collection and subsequent management.

Recommendations from 69 to 75

These proposals are dedicated to sustainable AI, in full alignment with the European guidelines. The Government will work on a regulation which will ensure a sustainable development in support of the energy sector, disabled people and disadvantaged ranks. Another noteworthy purpose is the national prestige that Italy will straighten in the international competitiveness in terms of AI. Not by chance, several countries are making significant investments in AI, especially for military purposes, and it undoubtedly shows up how each of them is strong-willed to achieve a leadership in the AI field.

The document ends with an annex that points out the investment planned to implement the AI strategy. It counts 888 million for the first five years, in addition to another 605 million (121 per year) from private contributions.

“The disclosure of this ambitious strategic plan suggests an unprecedented and responsible use of Artificial Intelligence, lighting the way for a leap towards new levels of efficiency and sustainability for Italian businesses” said Mirella Liuzzi, Undersecretary at ministry of Economic Development. “The goal – she added – “is to gather the benefits that AI can bring to the country, with an approach that includes technology and sustainable development and always puts the individual and his context at the centre”.

However, in order to put into effect the above mentioned proposals and the overall efforts made, it is essential to better coordinate all the AI stakeholders, to distribute funding fairly and avoid waste of money.

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Science & Technology

Technologies That Are The Future



Innovation is the introduction of something new. As we are in this progressing age, one can observe changes in the surroundings within seconds. To cater for this, technological advancements and new innovations with better features are the need of the hour. Futurists of the 1950s or so predicted that by 2000s, we will have flying cars and airborne robots. While the forecasters had their timing wrong, but their foresighted technology was right. Today we are at the brink of manufacturing self-driving cars and robot assistants.

Among these, another important innovation that will go mainstream is the ‘Voice Assistants’. In about four to five years, every home is expected to have a voice assistant like Amazon Echo or Apple Homepod. This is all thanks to the power of artificial intelligence that we are able to develop something like this. Voice assistants are making a vital change in markets all around the world and some scientists believe that in the near future, people will be communicating through voice rather than text. This will save time which can be used in completing other tasks.

Another emerging technology is the technique of ‘Reversing Paralysis’. Researchers have begun using brain-reading technology which helps the people with paralysis to move their limbs again. This is done by placing an electronic implant in the brain which is connected to electrical stimulators located on the body to create a ‘neural bypass’. Although the progress in implementing this technology is slow but this technology is also being tested for people with other diseases like arthritis. These innovations with new advances would allow patients to regain control of their bodies.

The wait for ‘Quantum Computers’ is ending soon. A computer that can accelerate pharmaceutical research, compute equations that are hard to fathom right now or rewrite encryptions. Quantum computers have more qubits, the basic unit of quantum information. Qubits need ideal conditions to function properly, but new technology reduces the computational capability needed to correct errors caused by physical intrusions. These computers will be in the commercial market for common use by anyone in a few years.

The next on list are the ‘Hot Solar Cells’. Solar panels are more efficient today than their previous versions, but they still absorb only a fraction of sunlight. To solve this problem, hot solar cells are introduced which convert the sunlight into heat and then back to light. So, what happens is an ‘absorber-emitter’ absorbs the sunlight then converts it to heat and funnels it to solar cells. This system could even allow energy to be stored for later use. This system could deliver continuous power even when the sun is not shining.

‘Botnets’ is the real game changer in the list. As we are living in the age of smart phones, laptops, internet, media, etc. we do not entirely realize the importance of cyberattacks. Botnets are centralized systems that gain control of internet connected devices to launch cyberattacks. The situation is getting worse day by day with so many devices that have little to no cybersecurity measures. Botnets can evade spam filters, create click fraud, and launch denial-of-service attacks. Once a botnet is spotted, its command and control center can be attacked and rendered ineffective. In the coming years, botnet trends favor the attacker, and more botnet attacks will be coming for internet users.

A world where genetic diseases like Huntington’s and cystic fibrosis are defeated is something, we all wish for. Well, thanks to ‘Crispr’, genetic diseases may be eliminated. CRISPR Cas-9 is an abbreviation for ‘Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats’. It is a gene-splicing technology which is capable of finding and removing mutated sections of DNA. Once it is removed, crispr can replace the mutated ones with non-mutated variants. In conclusion, crispr has the ability to permanently remove certain types of genetic diseases from blood lines. It is already being used to eliminate cancer cells in some patients and may as well be able to cure genetically caused blindness as well in the near future.

Practice makes a man perfect but you never know the advancements in the technology might make the robots perfect too. ‘Reinforcement Learning’ is a new technique which helps artificial intelligence (AI) to solve problems it has never seen before. This concepts is connected with a large neural network which is trained to recognize patterns in data. The computer learns which information is correct and which is not and continuously improves itself. A computer using this technology can beat one of the best players in the world. Reinforcement learning might be moving towards its most vital tests soon with its use in self-driving cars and other technologies.

Another new technology in the market is the ‘Gene Therapy’. It is for hereditary diseases and is available in Europe market and will soon be launched in the United States. The success of these gene therapies increased phenomenally when scientists started to use viruses that are more efficient at transporting new genetic materials. Gene therapies can even treat the diseases which involve multiple genes. This kind of treatment might seem rare now but will be more common in the blink of an eye.

At one point last year, Bitcoin was worth more than $19,000 per coin but recently the value of cryptocurrency has decreased still a single coin is worth thousands of dollars. Cryptocurrency has stirred up controversy around the world but it is steadily becoming mainstream. Platforms like TrustToken and HybridBlock are poised to connect the global trading power of blockchains with real world assetd and are designed to give crypto enthusiasts greater access to silo trading markets which help to expand the industry to a new wave of crypto enthusiasts. As a result, sellers can make illiquid assets liquid, and buyers can have control of a vast portfolio of assets. By giving access to mobile friendly products like easy to use applications, these platforms are providing the market with a new form of crypto education and the tools to execute crypto trades.

Last but not the least on the list is the ‘Artificial Intelligence and Automation’. Some of the world’s most famous brands are majorly turning to automation in order to serve their customers better and become more affordable by reducing the costs. Big box retailers utilize automated warehouses to sort and ship products, while social media networks use automation to moderate comments and credit card companies use automation to detect fraud and theft. The implications here are massive because a new artificial intelligence economy incorporating the decentralized blockchain AI, can change the way businesses operate and run around the world.

Indeed, it is just a matter of time before everything goes to the market. We are moving to a time where everything is just a click away. New innovations are coming daily, changes are being made within minutes. In fact, as we speak, we might be unaware but there might be some company in the world working at this hour to bring a change to your smartphone but there is nothing we can do about it. We just have to hang in there and go with the flow.

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Science & Technology

What is a ‘vaccine passport’ and will you need one the next time you travel?



An Arab-Israeli woman shows her COVID-19 card which shows she has been vaccinated against the virus. Mohamed Yassin

Is the idea of a vaccine passport entirely new?

The concept of a passport to allow for cross border travel is something that we’ve been working on with the Common Trust Network for many months. The focus has been first on diagnostics. That’s where we worked with an organization called “The Commons Project” to develop the “Common Trust Framework”. This is a set of registries of trusted data sources, a registry of labs accredited to run tests and a registry of up-to-date border crossing regulations.

The set of registries can be used to generate certificates of compliance to prevailing border-crossing regulations as defined by governments. There are different tools to generate the certificates, and the diversity of their authentication solutions and the way they protect data privacy is quite remarkable.

We at the Forum have no preference when it comes to who is running the certification algorithm, we simply want to promote a unique set of registries to avoid unnecessary replication efforts. This is where we support the Common Trust Framework. For instance, the Common Pass is one authentication solution – but there are others, for example developed by Abbott, AOK, SICPA (Certus), IBM and others.

How does the system work and how could it be applied to vaccines?

The Common Trust Network, supported by the Forum, is combining the set of registries that are going to enrol all participating labs. Separately from that, it provides an up-to-date database of all prevailing border entry rules (which fluctuate and differ from country to country).

Combining these two datasets provides a QR code that border entry authorities can trust. It doesn’t reveal any personal health data – it tells you about compliance of results versus border entry requirements for a particular country. So, if your border control rules say that you need to take a test of a certain nature within 72 hours prior to arrival, the tool will confirm whether the traveller has taken that corresponding test in a trusted laboratory, and the test was indeed performed less than three days prior to landing.

The purpose is to create a common good that many authentication providers can use and to provide anyone, in a very agnostic fashion, with access to those registries.

What is the WHO’s role?

There is currently an effort at the WHO to create standards that would process data on the types of vaccinations, how these are channelled into health and healthcare systems registries, the use cases – beyond the management of vaccination campaigns – include border control but also possibly in the future access to stadia or large events. By establishing in a truly ethical fashion harmonized standards, we can avoid a scenario whereby you create two classes of citizens – those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

So rather than building a set of rules that would be left to the interpretation of member states or private-sector operators like cruises, airlines or conveners of gatherings, we support the WHO’s effort to create a standard for member states for requesting vaccinations and how it would permit the various kinds of use cases.

It is important that we rely on the normative body (the WHO) to create the vaccine credential requirements. The Forum is involved in the WHO taskforce to reflect on those standards and think about how they would be used. The WHO’s goal is to deploy standards and recommendations by mid-March 2021, and the hope is that they will be more harmonized between member states than they have been to date in the field of diagnostics.

What about the private sector and separate initiatives?

When registry frameworks are being developed for authentication tools providers, they should at a minimum feed as experiments into the standardization efforts being driven by WHO, knowing that the final guidance from the only normative body with an official UN mandate may in turn force those providers to revise their own frameworks. We certainly support this type of interaction, as public- and private-sector collaboration is key to overcoming the global challenge posed by COVID-19.

What more needs to be done to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines?

As the WHO has warned, vaccine nationalism – or a hoarding and “me-first” approach to vaccine deployment – risks leaving “the world’s poorest and most vulnerable at risk.”

COVAX, supported by the World Economic Forum, is coordinated by the World Health Organization in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance; CEPI, the Centre for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations and others. So far, 190 economies have signed up.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) is another partnership, with universal access and equity at its core, that has been successfully promoting global collaboration to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The World Economic Forum is a member of the ACT-Accelerator’s Facilitation Council (governing body).

World Economic Forum

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Science & Technology

Iran among five pioneers of nanotechnology



Prioritizing nanotechnology in Iran has led to this country’s steady placement among the five pioneers of the nanotechnology field in recent years, and approximately 20 percent of all articles provided by Iranian researchers in 2020 are relative to this area of technology.

Iran has been introduced as the 4th leading country in the world in the field of nanotechnology, publishing 11,546 scientific articles in 2020.

The country held a 6 percent share of the world’s total nanotechnology articles, according to StatNano’s monthly evaluation accomplished in WoS databases.

There are 227 companies in Iran registered in the WoS databases, manufacturing 419 products, mainly in the fields of construction, textile, medicine, home appliances, automotive, and food.

According to the data, 31 Iranian universities and research centers published more than 50 nano-articles in the last year. 

In line with China’s trend in the past few years, this country is placed in the first stage with 78,000 nano-articles (more than 40 percent of all nano-articles in 2020), and the U.S. is at the next stage with 24,425 papers. These countries have published nearly half of the whole world’s nano-articles.

In the following, India with 9 percent, Iran with 6 percent, and South Korea and Germany with 5 percent are the other head publishers, respectively.

Almost 9 percent of the whole scientific publications of 2020, indexed in the Web of Science database, have been relevant to nanotechnology.

There have been 191,304 nano-articles indexed in WoS that had to have a 9 percent growth compared to last year. The mentioned articles are 8.8 percent of the whole produced papers in 2020.

Iran ranked 43rd among the 100 most vibrant clusters of science and technology (S&T) worldwide for the third consecutive year, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020 report.

The country experienced a three-level improvement compared to 2019.

Iran’s share of the world’s top scientific articles is 3 percent, Gholam Hossein Rahimi She’erbaf, the deputy science minister, has announced.

The country’s share in the whole publications worldwide is 2 percent, he noted, highlighting, for the first three consecutive years, Iran has been ranked first in terms of quantity and quality of articles among Islamic countries.

Sourena Sattari, vice president for science and technology has said that Iran is playing the leading role in the region in the fields of fintech, ICT, stem cell, aerospace, and is unrivaled in artificial intelligence.

From our partner Tehran Times

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