Development of Artificial Intelligence in Croatia Offers Opportunities

Lauren Simmonds

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Lucija Spiljak writes on the 18th of August, 2019, HUP has just published a document outlining the opportunities for the use of artificial intelligence in Croatia, so it’s easy to assume that this will also become a permanent topic in market and business related discussions.

A conversation on the potential of artificial intelligence for Croatia and whether or not robots will eventually replace humans was held with Ratko Mutavdžić, a member of the Executive Board of the HUP-ICT Association, and the director of the public services sector at Microsoft’s cloud.

Is Croatia aware of the potential of artificial intelligence in terms of markets and business?

What’s most likely, like most things in our country, the potential has been recognised with a few years of delay.

Applications have become more significant with the adoption of artificial intelligence in products from other industries, such as the automotive, finance or commerce industries, where the rapid effects of application in existing or new products on the available data have been recognised.

Today, this is increasingly taking place, and due to its good results and the low cost of its application, artificial intelligence has slowly begun to take the lead in new applied technologies in many Croatian companies. The role of the state in creating an environment that will foster the development and application of artificial intelligence solutions should not be neglected.

The beginnings were not very promising – let’s recall that Croatia was the last member state of the EU to sign the Charter on the Application of Artificial Intelligence, but there have been recent efforts of the Ministry of Economy to indicate through the activities of the Croatian Employers’ Association, as well as through participation in the work of the National Council for Digital Economy, that they’re thinking about this. The EU is also earmarking some 2.3 billion euros for artificial intelligence projects.

HUP has just published a document outlining the opportunities for the use of artificial intelligence in Croatia, so we can assume that this will also become a permanent topic in discussions related to the market and business based on artificial intelligence.

Specific examples at Microsoft?

The application of artificial intelligence is diverse.

Companies like Microsoft have made it easy to deploy, made it low in its cost of use, and fast-paced, through platforms that are accessible to everyone, such as cloud-based platforms. Today, it is embedded in almost all products, introducing new features or enhancing the user experience to a lesser or greater extent.

You already see such applications in everyday life, especially if you have a smartphone. On the other hand, it helps companies accelerate and automate processes, reduce errors, eliminate manual work. It’s not only a matter of improving the performance of companies but also of application in various fields such as healthcare, education or public administration. It’s easier to spot specific illnesses, find out far earlier about potential problems, understand how we can help children individually in schools, or how we can speed up court processes.

In which areas is it being used?

Artificial intelligence has gained new life in the last ten years. We came out of the “ice age” of artificial intelligence development because we had several things to do: We developed better algorithms, enabled them to be processed quickly and scalably using large publicly available processing platforms, through cloud computing, and began to collect large amounts of data that we need for artificial intelligence.

Today, companies are making significant investments in deployment, while major platform makers, such as Microsoft, are investing several billion dollars a year in this development. There are currently no restrictions on implementation, although, rightly, questions arise in which areas we should consider applying it.

There is more and more talk about the ethics and law of artificial intelligence and how we should regulate it. While all of our efforts are aimed towards applying it to the well-being of technology for humanity as a whole, there are always attempts to misuse technology in ways that we, as a community, disagree with – and this needs to be understood well and properly regulated.

Do Croatian companies use European Union money to develop artificial intelligence?

A large number of members and partners involved with HUP, but also other communities, and partners of the companies producing artificial intelligence platforms, have a great opportunity to use EU money from the Digital Europe 2021-2027 financial package and program, which envisages around 2.3 billion euros for artificial intelligence-based projects.

However, even without such significant support, the development of such solutions is very intensive in Croatia, and there are a number of companies and individuals involved in artificial intelligence. Most of the first solutions are either based on platform-based cognitive services that allow you to build popular chatbots that you can find on various company and organisation websites today, or at simpler levels of machine learning, again related to cognitive services such as facial recognition, objects, or text.

Part of the problem is either a lack of quality data or limited support for lesser spoken languages ​​such as Croatian. But lately, with the growth of knowledge and the available data, we’re seeing more complex solutions, for example, in the automotive industry we now have self-driving cars or the transport industry where we have robots for carrying out warehouse work. The artificial intelligence gathering and sharing community is very active and you can follow its work on the Ai2future community websites.

And how does ICT deal with the problem of a lack of qualified personnel?

This is an area that is growing, and the salaries of such employees are among the largest in the country and continue to grow for specialists by area. The disadvantage is noticeable, but the application of technologies allows us to work and produce solutions anywhere. It’s hard to talk about a ”skilled workforce” and ”imports” in this context – in the computer industry, the only thing that really matters is that you know what to do, no matter where you are physically or how you get the results. I think that these manufacturing activities today are the best way to show what the workplace looks like and the work of the future – distributed, shared, remote, but also unified. I think many industries should be learning from us.

How do you comment on the views that robots will replace humans?

For many years, artificial intelligence was portrayed in a negative way; as a machine tasked with eliminating humans and human existence. Artificial intelligence would be portrayed as a program that has stripped itself of human control and self-awareness leading the world to destruction. It is because of this understanding that we are very cautious about how we move forward and what we create and, in parallel with development, we understand the ethics, rights, morals, and the reach of such solutions.

We try to understand what values ​​and principles we need to ”instill” when it comes to such intelligence and establish norms by which it would behave, which is not easy because the human community does not all have the same views on individual things.

Unfortunately, it has already been shown that particular human immorality has a very successful effect on how artificial intelligence behaves, and this is certainly an issue that we will continue to hold to be of importance. In some highly repetitive automation industries, yes, robots will replace humans.

It’s difficult to see manual work in factories in Croatia where a worker works on a piece of product or moves it manually; you can’t compete with a robot that will do the same job 100 times faster than you. But in a range of industries and fields, there will be no replacement – robots and programs will be an added value for humans to improve their work. We’ll probably still have doctors who will be assisted by artificial intelligence, preparing results, providing better insight and the like, but the final decision will be that of a specialist.

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