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Estonia: Government Issues Artificial Intelligence Report

(July 31, 2019) In May 2019 a multidisciplinary group of experts, headed by the Chief Information Officer of Estonia’s government, produced a study on artificial intelligence (AI) that, if accepted by the government, may serve as the country’s first AI strategy. While the report is not a legal document, it aims at outlining the principles upon which the legal framework for AI will be based. (State Chancellery & Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, Estonian Artificial Intelligence: Report of the Expert Group on Deployment (May 2019), State Chancery website (in Estonian).) The report, known as the Kratt report, defines “kratt” as “a practical application that uses artificial intelligence and that fulfils a specific function,” and documents the shift in Estonia’s approach to creating a legal framework for AI. (Id.)

Estonian Approach to Legal Framework Mirrors European Union’s

In 2017, Estonia’s national digital adviser, Martin Kaevats, proposed the adoption of a special AI law aimed at granting a legal personality to AI, with corresponding amendments to liability insurance legislation. (Bartosz Troczynski, Estonia Plans the Boldest AI Regulations, NEWTECH.LAW (Oct. 23, 2017).) The newly released AI report, however, recommends adopting the same approach to a legal framework for AI as that of the European Union (EU). According to the chief information officer of the Estonian government, “[t]he European Union has proposed a framework for the implementation of responsible artificial intelligence. We want to build on the EU framework, not to start creating and arguing for it ourselves.” (Ronald Liive, Estonian State IT Manager Siim Sikkut: If There Were 1% in the State Budget for Science, We Could Talk More About Kratind, DIGIGEENIUS (May 5, 2019).) Accordingly, in May 2019, the government of Estonia signed the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Principles on Artificial Intelligence, which reflected the principles of human-centric and ethical AI development embodied in the EU approach and recommended by the OECD in their Recommendation of the Council on Artificial Intelligence. (OECD, Recommendation of the Council on Artificial Intelligence, OECD/LEGAL/0449, May 25, 2019; Forty-two Countries Adopt New OECD Principles on Artificial Intelligence, OECD (May 22, 2019).)

Estonian AI Projects Under Development

According to the authors of the Kratt report, the public sector should play a key role in pioneering innovative AI development projects aimed at adopting necessary measures to guarantee accessibility and quality data and at delivering a wide range of public services. (Estonia Accelerates Artificial Intelligence Development, E-ESTONIA (May 2019).) Among these projects is a pilot program of the Ministry of Justice to automate small claims court judgments in disputes concerning the payment of a maximum of €6,400 (approximately US$7,200). According to a Ministry of Justice official, “[t]his is essentially a post office job – a claim is made to the court, the court makes a payment proposal to the counterparty, and if it is not disputed, a court decision will come into force.” (Jan-Matthias Mandri, Judges Are Robotics: The State Is Looking for Ways to Implement Artificial Intelligence in the Judiciary, FORTE (Apr. 1, 2019) (in Estonian) (translation by author).)

Another noteworthy pilot is the project by the National Library of Estonia to develop AI for automated text tagging. The project will support the development of Estonian language-based machine learning and artificial intelligence. (Kerti Kulper, The National Library Is Developing Artificial Intelligence, or Krat, for Automatic Tagging, NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ESTONIA (May 28, 2019).)