AI bosses called in to speed up German bureaucracy

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's government looks to put European stamp on new tech

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says AI could bring a 'great transformation'. Getty
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Germany is looking to artificial intelligence “made in Europe” to speed up its notoriously slow bureaucracy.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said AI technology had “great potential” in the country as it tries to position itself as a leader in the field.

The founder of Aleph Alpha, a European rival to ChatGPT, was among AI bosses invited to a cabinet away-day on Tuesday.

They held talks on using AI to help digitise a German government machine where paper, pens and fax machines are still prevalent.

AI could bring a “great transformation” in the way Germany uses digital tools, said Mr Scholz.

He said the government’s goal was to “make these advances usable for our country – that goes for digitisation but also for AI in general”.

The German AI Association, an industry body, urged the government on Tuesday to adopt a “new mindset” amid what it called a “standstill in digital policy”.

Aleph Alpha has been signed up to an “AI park” in western Germany that is envisaged as a home of German start-ups.

The German company touts its “sovereign, European AI technology” as compliant with strict EU data regulations.

It also claims its model can check its output against “verified facts” – addressing the fact that AI bots such as the American ChatGPT sometimes make factual blunders.

Germany’s aim is to “bring our European values” into the growth of AI, a government spokesman said. The health system is also slated for an AI revamp.

A foundation belonging to Dieter Schwarz, the founder of supermarket chain Lidl, has put €50 million ($54 million) into the AI park.

“Many of the researchers, also many of the start-ups that are active in this area come from our country,” said Mr Scholz, who has spoken of bringing a “new German speed” to government policy.

Ministers have promised a “digital decade” in which health records are digitised, half the households are connected to fibre-optic internet and people can use a virtual ID to access government services.

Britain also has ambitions to be an AI leader. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to host a November summit on the issue at Bletchley Park, known for its role in code breaking during the Second World War.

Updated: August 29, 2023, 1:10 PM