“We must democratize AI technologies.”
Professor Volker Markl proposes an independent, trustworthy, nationwide, data and analysis infrastructure.
Germany aims to become a world leader in AI – German politicians stated during the announcement of the German AI Strategy late last year. However, Dr. Volker Markl, Professor of Database Systems and Information Management at TU Berlin, Chief Scientist at the DFKI in Berlin, and co-author of the strategy believes both German companies and policymakers have a lot of catching up to do. Volker Markl is an experienced political adviser, successful mentor, co-founder of various IT start-ups, and an internationally renowned scientist – so he is clearly in a position to state what he thinks is missing in Germany.
The federal government intends to invest three billion euros in the German AI Strategy by 2025 and the European Commission will contribute 20 billion euros on its AI strategy by 2020. Germany is well-placed when it comes to basic research. However, competitive pressures have grown immensely. Today, both governments and large companies around the globe are investing massive sums of money. “The already established, internationally recognized national competence centers dedicated to big data and machine learning play a pivotal role in Germany. Their groups have been conducting world-class research over many years and are drivers of innovation and training. These centers must be strengthened. They need to expand, in order to provide them with the necessary critical mass to boost innovation and enable the AI and Data Science landscape in Germany to develop and thrive,” says Markl.
In order to compete with the USA and China, at the same level, Markl proposes an independent infrastructure for data management and analysis. One that offers both the data and the data-processing capability to industry, science, and every individual citizen. “Success in AI will be determined by efficient processing infrastructures and the interaction among data, algorithms, and applications. It is extremely important to consider the entire system, including the hardware, software, data, and the algorithms employed as well as the community and market mechanisms.” For him, it is ultimately about democratizing AI technology. “The vision should be to securely and reliably manage data collected in Germany, or even better, in Europe, in a neutral, trustworthy infrastructure. With the aid of our public institutions, we must ensure that such an infrastructure is in conformity with the law, and protected from takeovers from abroad. I am thinking of an infrastructure that provides public and protected capabilities well as the factors of production, i.e., data, algorithms, and processing capacities, to industry, science, society, and every individual citizen. It should be possible for everyone to use data in adherence to data protection regulations and conduct interactive analyses of this data. This could serve as a foundation for a lively, internationally competitive marketplace that yields innovative applications and business models, an incubator for AI innovation, where algorithms, data, and data apps can be developed and traded.”
Aside from this major pitch for an innovation ecosystem, Volker Markl also calls on German companies to think differently: “Many German companies did not see the emerging opportunities and the potential of big data and basic AI technologies in time. They do not yet view themselves as IT companies, but rather as IT users,”
To learn more about this and other related topics (e.g., the use of open source as a business strategy, the needs of the German science landscape in the era of digital revolution), you will find the complete interview here (PDF) 
For further information, contact:
Prof. Dr. Volker Markl
Database Systems and Information Management (DIMA) Group
Technische Universität Berlin
Tel.: 030 314-23555
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org