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Mexico believes that a comprehensive national strategy for artificial intelligence (AI) is key for the country to harness the benefits of the technology and mitigate potential risks. Cristina Martínez Pinto, AI for Good Lab Director at C Minds, talks to Business Malta about Mexico’s take on AI progress. Currently, Malta is in the month of public consultation on AI, before work starts on a national strategy to be posted in the second half of the year.

“A Mexican national AI strategy will allow Mexico to align sectors’ interests and funding strategies, to boost the country’s competitiveness, and to democratise knowledge around AI development and adoption, with a focus on ethics and social impact,” Ms Martínez says when introducing the country’s AI vision.

Mexico published its national white paper entitled “Towards an AI Strategy in Mexico: Harnessing the AI Revolution” in June 2018, a collaboration project between Oxford Insights and C Minds, commissioned by the British Embassy in Mexico. The report gives an international overview of AI policies, assesses opportunities in Mexico and offers recommendations for the development of a Mexican national AI strategy. The project provides estimates of the impact of AI in the Mexican labour market in the next 20 years and gives policy recommendations in five key areas: governance, government and public services; research and development; capacity, skills, and education; data infrastructure; and ethics and regulation. “The main challenge to first creating and then sustaining and implementing the strategy is the change in administrations both federal and local levels. The existence of AI champions on all levels — public servants and legislators — is key for the strategy to succeed,” Ms Martínez says.

“The main challenge to first creating and then sustaining and implementing the strategy is the change in administrations both federal and local levels. The existence of AI champions on all levels — public servants and legislators — is key for the strategy to succeed,”

says Cristina Martínez Pinto of C Minds.

Participants of the project started by mapping the ecosystem’s key actors across sectors: public sector, industries, start-ups, academia, and civil society. They interviewed 68 experts to understand, from their different viewpoints, the main challenges and opportunities for accelerating AI development.

“The policy recommendations developed in consultation with key actors of the ecosystem led to the creation of two relevant policy mechanisms. One is the creation of an AI Subcommission in the Interagency Commission for the Development of Electronic Government (CIDGE in Spanish), on the federal level. The other is the creation of IA2030Mx, cofounded and co-led by C Minds, a cross-sector coalition that is working to develop a more comprehensive national AI agenda and that recently published the results from their national AI survey, which had a reach of over 1,500 respondents across all states of Mexico,” Ms Martínez describes how their work contributed to the AI progress in the country.

Markets welcome AI recommendations

Sectors have appeared to receive C Minds’ recommendations well, as the report provided a basis for new collaborations and catalysed networking opportunities. Even though these are only initial steps towards a needed AI agenda, C Minds believes that current progress has led to a better articulation of the ecosystem and a better understanding of both the potential and risks of the AI revolution for Mexico.

Adopting a clearly transparent and democratic approach, the report is handled as a “living document”, and is available for further strengthening and editing online by anyone. “Through C Minds’ AI for Good Lab and through IA2030Mx we aim to deepen the debate and understanding of artificial intelligence in Mexico. Considering the current speed of technological development and evolution, it is important for the input toward a future Mexican AI strategy to be flexible and allow for multiple iterations, as it will be for the strategy itself,” Ms Martínez says.

Mexico sports a vibrant and diverse AI ecosystem. “We believe that a national AI strategy will help this ecosystem thrive even further and should recognise that AI, like any other technology, is a mere tool at the service of humanity. The strategy must be built about people and focus on harnessing the potential of responsible AI for both social and economic development,” Ms Martínez says, expressing ideas that echo the main cornerstones of Finland’s AI strategy, as Maikki Sipinen, Artificial Intelligence Specialist of Finland’s AI Strategy, discussed their progress with Business Malta earlier.

“We believe that a national AI strategy will help this ecosystem thrive even further … [and it] must be built about people and focus on harnessing the potential of responsible AI for both social and economic development,”

says Cristina Martínez Pinto of C Minds.

Ms Martínez finds that creating an AI strategy is a fascinating journey, one of continuous learning and experimentation, as AI itself is an emerging technology.

“Understanding Maltese values, ethics and having a country vision is vital for creating a unique strategy tailored to the country’s needs,” Ms Martinez weighs in when asked to share their experiences in order to provide insight for the Maltese progress. “How will the strategy impact Malta’s population in their daily lives? How will Malta’s AI strategy differentiate from other strategies and bring a new perspective to international conversations? These, and many other questions will be at the core of the debates you will soon be starting. We look forward to learning from Malta’s experience and, if needed, to provide more advice based on our own learnings,” Ms Martínez concludes.