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AI in the EU: Balancing benefit and control

Guest contributor



When the president of the European Commission made her first speech to the European Parliament in December 2019, she officially recognized 'Artificial Intelligence' as an area of strategic importance for the European Union. Nine months later, addressing once again the European Parliament in her maiden “State of the Union’ speech”, she had moved from spelling out “Artificial Intelligence” to talking in terms of ‘AI’ – so well-known is the technology within the EU bubble now. This is not so surprising when AI is being deployed across most (if not all) sectors of the economy, from disease diagnosis to minimizing the environmental impact of farming, writes Angeliki Dedopoulou, senior manager for EU Public Affairs with Huawei Technologies.

It is true that much work has been done by the European Commission since President Ursula Von der Leyen and her team took office. Already promised in December 2019 was a “legislative proposal” on AI – what was delivered was an AI White Paper in February. While this, admittedly, is not a legislative proposal, it is a document that has kick-started the debate on human and ethical AI, the use of Big Data, and how these technologies can be used to create wealth for society and business.

The Commission’s White Paper emphasizes the importance of establishing a uniform approach to AI across the EU’s 27 member states, where different countries have started to take their own approach to regulation, and thus potentially, are erecting barriers to the EU’s single market. It also, importantly for Huawei, talks about plans to take a risk-based approach to regulating AI.

At Huawei we studied the White Paper with interest, and along with (more than 1,250!) other stakeholders, contributed to the Commission’s public consultation, which closed on 14 June, giving our input and ideas as experts working in this field.

Finding the balance

The main point that we emphasized to the Commission is the need to find the right balance between allowing innovation and ensuring adequate protection for citizens.

In particular, we focused on the need for high-risk applications to be regulated under a clear legal framework, and proposed ideas for what the definition of AI should be. In this regard, we believe the definition of AI should come down to its application, with risk assessments focusing on the intended use of the application and the type of impact resulting from the AI function. If there are detailed assessment lists and procedures in place for companies to make their own self-assessments, then this will reduce the cost of initial risk assessment – which must match sector-specific requirements.

We have recommended that the Commission looks into bringing together consumer organizations, academia, member states, and businesses to assess whether an AI system may qualify as high-risk. There is already an established body set up to deal with these kinds of things – the standing Technical Committee High Risk Systems (TCRAI). We believe this body could assess and evaluate AI systems against high-risk criteria both legally and technically. If this body took some control, combined with a voluntary labelling system, on offer would be a governance model that:

• Considers the entire supply chain;

• sets the right criteria and targets the intended goal of transparency for consumers/businesses;

• incentivizes the responsible development and deployment of AI, and;

• creates an ecosystem of trust.

Outside of the high-risk applications of AI, we have stated to the Commission that the existing legal framework based on fault-based and contractual liability is sufficient – even for state-of-the-art technologies like AI, where there could be a fear that new technology requires new rules. Extra regulation is however, unnecessary; it would be over-burdensome and discourage the adoption of AI.

From what we know of the current thinking within the Commission, it appears that it also plans to take a risk-based approach to regulating AI. Specifically, the Commission proposes focusing in the short-term on “high-risk” AI applications – meaning either high-risk sectors (like healthcare) or in high-risk use (for example whether it produces legal or similarly significant effects on the rights of an individual).

So, what happens next?

The Commission has a lot of work to do in getting through all the consultation responses, taking into account the needs of business, civil society, trade associations, NGOs and others. The additional burden of working through the coronavirus crisis has not helped matters, with the formal response from the Commission now not expected until Q1 2021.

Coronavirus has been a game-changer for technology use in healthcare of course, and will no doubt have an impact on the Commission’s thinking in this area. Terms such as “telemedicine” have been talked about for years, but the crisis has turned virtual consultations into reality – almost overnight.

Beyond healthcare we see AI deployment being continuously rolled out in areas such as farming and in the EU’s efforts to combat climate change. We are proud at Huawei to be part of this continuous digital development in Europe – a region in which and for which we have been working for 20 years. The development of digital skills is at the heart of this, which not only equips future generations with the tools to seize the potential of AI, but will also enable the current workforce to be active and agile in an ever-changing world: there is a need for an inclusive, lifelong learning-based and innovation-driven approach to AI education and training, to help people transition between jobs seamlessly. The job market has been heavily impacted by the crisis, and quick solutions are needed.

As we wait for the Commission’s formal response to the White Paper, what more is there to say about AI in Europe? Better healthcare, safer and cleaner transport, more efficient manufacturing, smart farming and cheaper and more sustainable energy sources: these are just a few of the benefits AI can bring to our societies, and to the EU as a whole. Huawei will work with EU policymakers and will strive to ensure the region gets the balance right: innovation combined with consumer protection.


More than 100 jobs to be created by Huawei in Ireland

Technology correspondent



Huawei today (21 February) announced it would create a further 110 new jobs in Ireland by the end of 2022, bringing to at least 310 the total of new jobs it will have added over a three year period from 2019 to 2022 – more than doubling its workforce in that time. Huawei will invest €80 million in Irish research and development (R&D) over the next two years to support its growing business in Ireland.

Over the past 15 months, Huawei has created 200 jobs in Ireland, as well as investing €60 million in R&D. In the next two years, Huawei will invest a further €80 million in R&D in Ireland, doubling its commitment from 2019.*

The new jobs will meet sustained growing demand for Huawei’s products and services across its sales, R&D, IT development and in its consumer division. The company has a strong focus on helping its business partners roll out 5G across Ireland in coming years.  The jobs will be mainly based in its Dublin headquarters and across operations in Cork and Athlone.

The investment is supported by the Irish government through IDA Ireland.

Commenting on the announcement, Tánaiste and Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Leo Varadkar said: “The news that Huawei will create 110 new jobs is most welcome.  The company is creating new jobs at a time when we really need them with so many people out of work. Despite all the current uncertainty and challenges, Ireland continues to attract top class investment from global technology companies. These 110 jobs, which come in addition to the 200 created over the past 15 months, will be accompanied by an €80m investment in Irish research and development. I wish the company the best of luck with this expansion.”

Confirming the latest recruitment plans Huawei Ireland Chief Executive Tony Yangxu said: “We are delighted to see such growth in our workforce and business.  Huawei has a long-term commitment to Ireland, where since 2004 we have built a world-class team servicing our ever-growing consumer and enterprise customer bases.  Today’s announcement is testament to the strength of those, as well as the ongoing success of our research and development programme, to which we committed €70 million in 2019.  Our story in Ireland is one of mutual success, as we assist with the national digital transformation and Ireland continues to grow its international reputation as a pro-business environment with great talent available.”

IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan added: “This is a welcome investment by Huawei which will add substantially to Ireland’s technology and R&D ecosystem.  The company’s continued commitment to significant investments in R&D and creating high value jobs demonstrates Huawei’s confidence in Ireland and the talent pool available here.”

Huawei has a broad range of activities in Ireland, where it serves all of the major telecommunications providers with products and business solutions.

Huawei’s R&D operations in Ireland work closely with Science Foundation Ireland research centres, including Adapt, Connect and Lero, while also having partnerships with DCU, Trinity, UCD, UCC and UL.  Its R&D efforts in Ireland focus on the areas of video, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), site-reliability engineering and 5G consumer use cases.

In 2020, Huawei Ireland began supporting Ocean Research & Conservation Ireland through its global digital inclusion TECH4ALL programme.  Huawei Ireland is providing a research grant and technological support to ORC Ireland as it conducts the first real-time study of the impact of marine traffic on whales in Irish waters. Huawei Ireland also launched the ‘TECH4HER’ Scholarship Programme in partnership with Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and University College Dublin (UCD), aimed at supporting female students studying STEM subjects.

Huawei Ireland was recently announced as a 2021 regional Top Employer by the Top Employers Institute. Each year, Top Employers Institute certifies organisations who are focused on putting their people first through their exceptional HR policies. The Top Employers Institute programme certifies organisations based on the participation and results of their HR Best Practices Survey. This survey covers 6 HR domains consisting of 20 topics such as People Strategy, Work Environment, Talent Acquisition, Learning, Well-being and Diversity & Inclusion and more.

About Huawei Ireland

Huawei is a leading global provider of information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure and smart devices. With integrated solutions across four key domains – telecom networks, IT, smart devices, and cloud services – Huawei is committed to bringing digital to every person, home and organisation for a fully connected, intelligent world. Huawei employs over 194,000 people in 170 countries across the globe.

Huawei has been in Ireland since 2004, with its business now serving over 3 million people and supporting over 860 direct and indirect jobs.

Huawei’s business activities in Ireland continue to thrive. Intelligent connectivity with fibre and 5G technologies has begun and will empower the market of mobile networks and broadband networks with AI and IOT technologies.  Huawei Ireland is working very closely with local operators and partners, and is focused on nurturing future talent and highly-skilled professionals in these areas across the country.

Huawei works with a number of Irish third-level institutions, including Trinity College Dublin, Dublin City University, University of Limerick, University College Dublin, and University College Cork, funding vital Irish research into video, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.  The company also partners key Science Foundation Ireland centres such as Connect, Insight, Adapt and Lero.

Huawei Ireland is supporting Ocean Research & Conservation Ireland, a “for-impact” non-profit organisation based in Cork, to conduct Ireland’s first real-time study to assess the impact of marine traffic on whales in Irish waters. The new study will see the deployment of acoustic monitoring equipment in the Celtic Sea at locations where sightings of whales and other wildlife have been recorded. The equipment will be able to listen for movements of whales, and with the help of machine learning models to enhance data analysis, for the first time provide near real-time detection.

In 2020, Huawei Ireland launched the ‘TECH4HER’ Scholarship Programme in partnership with Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and University College Dublin (UCD), aimed at supporting female students studying STEM subjects. The scholarships are available at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. In addition to financial support, TECH4HER also offers the opportunity to engage in a mentoring programme with representatives from Huawei.

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Huawei CEO calls for easing of US-China trade tensions

Technology correspondent



Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei (pictured) urged the new US administration to adopt a more open policy towards Chinese companies, though admitted the vendor had no expectation current restrictions on it would be lifted, writes Chris Donkin.

Speaking at a media roundtable, Ren said the company wanted to focus on making good products and did not have the “energy to be involved in this political whirlpool”.

The executive went on to question if the US’ aggressive stance against China’s companies was beneficial to its own economy and businesses.

However, he conceded it would be “extremely difficult” for authorities in the US to lift restrictions already imposed on Huawei.

Huawei was a target of a sustained campaign against it led-by former US President Donald Trump, with various restrictions placed on the company’s activities including bans on US companies supplying the vendor.

The rules have severely restricted Huawei’s handset business in addition to hampering its networks unit: the US successfully persuaded several countries to follow its lead in banning the vendor from supplying 5G network equipment on security grounds.

Trump has since been replaced by Joe Biden, though so far there has been no indication this would lead to an easing in restrictions against the company or its local peers.

During the session Ren also reiterated earlier comments stating Huawei was open to negotiations with US-based businesses about licensing its technology, though noted none had contacted it so far.

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Huawei opens new front in FCC fight

Technology correspondent



Huawei escalated a fight with Federal Communications Commission (FCC), filing a lawsuit seeking to reverse the US regulator’s designation of it as a national security threat, writes Diana Goovaerts.

The Chinese vendor argued in a court filing the FCC exceeded its statutory authority in naming it a threat and the label was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion, and not supported by substantial evidence”.

It asked a judge to scrap the FCC’s designation and “provide such other relief as this court deems appropriate”.

A FCC representative told Mobile World Live the designation was “based on a substantial body of evidence developed by the FCC and numerous US national security agencies”, adding “we will continue to defend that decision”.

The FCC formally named Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE as security threats in June 2020, and subsequently rejected appeals from both companies challenging their designations.

Under an FCC rule adopted in November 2019, the title prevents US operators from using government funding to purchase or maintain equipment from either vendor.

Huawei’s lawsuit is separate from legal action taken against the FCC in December 2019 aimed at overturning the rule.

The company lost an earlier attempt to reverse US restrictions on government contractors using its products.

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