Introduction

Introduction: support of the Belgian Ministers of Digital Agenda

Everyone wants to get ahead. You do, your neighbour does and so do we. The need for social and economic progress is an integral part of the human condition. It is the common denominator that unites students, workers, pensioners and business leaders alike.

We all want better and affordable healthcare, solutions for climate change, more job opportunities, better purchasing power and even mundane things, like spending less time in traffic. We want our quality of life and that of our children to improve. Curiosity, innovation and developing new skills have always been our strengths. So, let’s put them to good use.

We live in exciting times. We believe a key force behind social progress can be technological progress, of which Artificial Intelligence (AI) is now one of the principal drivers. AI can help us to anticipate diseases, cut energy consumption, transform tedious jobs into exciting ones, decrease the cost of many products and better manage our traffic. But more importantly, this technology can set us free, granting us more time for the things that define our humanness, like family and creativity, or – simply put – the pursuit of happiness.

If we want to reap the benefits of AI, however, much work is yet to be done. For decades, our country has been a pioneer in this, and many other fields. That knowledge and energy is still around. But while many countries are already making significant investments, we are at risk of falling behind. It is time to be bold and ambitious, to come together, all of us, and to prepare our country for a future that is inevitably digital. We need to scale up local initiatives and put Belgium firmly on the map internationally. That’s why we are supporting the AI 4 Belgium coalition; to incite our country to seize this opportunity with both hands. This is a coalition open to anyone who wants to build a better Belgium.

We are proud that the first members of this coalition are among the leading Belgians active in AI. This is a multidisciplinary team, covering a wide political spectrum and multiple backgrounds. Yet despite its divergency, this team has come together and has proposed a concerted AI program for all levels of government and different stakeholders The fact that they have achieved such a level of agreement on the required actions is all the more proof that action is needed and is needed now.

This is an initial step towards an ambitious and official Belgian AI strategy. We will start implementing some of the coalition’s recommendations. It will also be up to our next government to uphold this ambition and put recommendations into practice, together.

Philippe De Backer & Alexander De Croo