Luxembourg’s strategic vision for artificial intelligence (AI), presented in 2019 by Prime Minister and Minister for Digitalisation Xavier Bettel, aims to "make the Grand Duchy one of the most advanced digital societies in Europe and the world, create a data-driven and sustainable economy, and to support human-centric AI development".
The European Parliament defines AI as "the ability of a machine to display human-like capabilities such as reasoning, learning, planning and creativity. AI enables technical systems to perceive their environment, deal with what they perceive, solve problems and act to achieve a specific goal. The computer receives data, processes it and responds. AI systems are capable of adapting their behaviour (to a certain degree) by analysing the effects of previous actions and working autonomously".
AI thus brings together technologies that combine data, algorithms and, as a result, processing power. As the European Commission points out, "advances in computing and the increasing availability of data are therefore key" to the upswing of AI. Luxembourg has technological and industrial advantages and a high-quality digital infrastructure that enable it to take advantage of the power of AI, to the benefit of the entire society.
Objectives of the AI4Gov Committee
Within the State, Luxembourg’s strategic vision for AI has led to the creation of an AI4Gov interministerial committee, whose members represent the Ministry for Digitalisation, the Communications and Media Service (SMC) and the Information and Press Service (SIP). The aim of the AI4Gov Committee is to encourage ministries and administrations to make use of artificial intelligence (AI) and data science to transform their actions and tasks. In other words, it encourages the administrative authorities to use these innovative technologies in order to develop new methods and analytical processes for dealing with existing issues, increase their efficiency in processing data, and thereby improve both their services and their procedures.
The AI4Gov initiative also makes it possible to provide State officials with the practical experience necessary for mastering the process of acquiring cutting-edge AI technologies. The ultimate aim is to establish expertise within the State and position the civil service as a driving force for innovation.
Call for AI4Gov projects
To promote the use of AI within the civil service, the AI4Gov Committee launched an initial call for projects in November 2019 which was directed at public-sector players with regard to experimental projects in AI and data science.
By early 2020 a total of fourteen projects had been proposed by various State bodies, proof of growing interest in these technologies. A panel of experts from the public and private sectors examined the applications in terms of their maturity, potential for innovation, and use of AI.
In the end, the panel retained six projects which benefitted from technical accompaniment in 2020, via a call for support from outside service providers, the aim being to achieve a functional prototype that could be used by officials or the general public. An interministerial legal working group also looked into the socio-technical and ethical context of each project. Four out of these six projects were implemented in 2020.
In December 2020 the AI4Gov Committee launched a second call for projects; this resulted in twelve proposals, which were put through the same process of analysis and selection as for those in the first call.
Projects implemented in 2020
Indexing of Government photos
The Government’s Information and Press service has an enormous media library of political photos belonging to the Luxembourg State. Until now, the work on indexing these photos, carried out manually, has been fastidious and time consuming. The AI project aimed to identify the politicians on these photos using facial recognition and generate improved metadata for the media library. Setting up this facial recognition has allowed to facilitate and accelerate the provision of the photos’ metadata, which in turn resulted in better use of the media library’s content, for the benefit of the State as a whole.
Extraction of topographical objects
This project involved using AI to extract topographical objects from aerial images, thereby making it possible to detect new buildings and roads with a view to identifying construction areas. Extracting these objects made it possible to reduce State officials’ workload and increase the quality and rapidity of updating the databases held by the Land Registry and Topography Administration. A further aim of the project was to allow the creation of new data and services, and object recognition.
Transcription of texts
The aim of the project proposed by the Luxembourg National Library (Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg - BnL) is to improve the transcription of the texts of articles by using optical character recognition (OCR). This enhancement was a prerequisite for the automated identification of "named entities" (people, places, organisations, and dates). These entities, detected using AI techniques, form the basis for a new interactive application that allows dynamic exploration of articles, thereby improving access to the archive of digitalised newspapers and journals.
Automatic recognition of old handwritten documents
The CLAVIS project proposed by the Luxembourg National archives (Archives nationales de Luxembourg - ANLux) involves submitting digitised images of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century manuscript documents to Transkribus, a platform for AI-assisted recognition of handwriting, transcription, and searches in historic documents. Automated transcription helps to make these sources, hardly exploitable until now, legible and comprehensible again for upcoming generations of researchers. ANLux also expects the project to come up with new possibilities for the automated creation of inventories or indexes of people and places.
Other AI4Gov initiatives
AI Legal & Ethics Working Group
As well as providing technical accompaniment for the projects, the AI4Gov Committee also provides legal and ethical accompaniment through the creation in early 2020 of an interministerial AI Legal & Ethics Working Group. Its members represent the Ministry for Digitalisation, the Communications and Media Service, the Government’s Information and Press Service, and the Government commission for data protection at the level of the State. By accompanying AI4Gov projects and maintaining dialogue with the promoters of projects, this Working Group carries out a preliminary assessment of the legal and ethical risks connected with the projects, thereby laying down initial markers for a risk-based approach to AI governance in the public sector.
Increasing State officials’ awareness regarding AI-related topics
The AI4Gov Committee is leading and developing a community of State players interested in topics involving AI and data science. It circulates a newsletter providing topical information relating to AI4Gov and interesting activities and news in the AI field.
Webinars are also available for representatives of ministries, administrations and public establishments, presenting the activities included in the AI4Gov initiative. They mainly report on progress made on the various projects adopted, and invite outside speakers who are experts in AI with a view to deepening knowledge and extending thinking with regard to AI.
GovCloud GPU Service
In 2020, the AI4Gov Committee carried out a detailed analysis of the technical requirements common to all State bodies in the context of the AI projects, which made it possible to identify and pool requirements in terms of IT resources. Since it was considered that the existing resources available did not match requirements, a common infrastructure of specialised hardware with GPU-type processors suited to these specific calculations was then implemented at the state calculation centre at the Government IT Centre (Centre des technologies de l’information de l’État - CTIE); this can be accessed by any State body which needs to use it.