(This December 10 story corrects the target number of students.)
By Tarmo Virki
TALLINN (Reuters) - Finland, which holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year, said on Tuesday it aims to teach 1% of all Europeans basic skills in artificial intelligence through a free online course.
The European Union is pushing for wide deployment of artificial intelligence across the bloc, to help European companies catch up with rivals in Asia and the United States.
“Our investment has three goals: we want to equip EU citizens with digital skills for the future, we wish to increase practical understanding of what artificial intelligence is, and by doing so, we want to give a boost to the digital leadership of Europe,” said Finnish Minister of Employment Timo Harakka.
“As our presidency ends, we want to offer something concrete. It’s about one of the most pressing challenges facing Europe and Finland today: how to develop our digital literacy,” Harakka said in a statement.
One percent of an EU population of about 512 million would equate to more than 5 million people.
Finland, known as one of the EU’s most tech-savvy nations, sees a massive opportunity in artificial intelligence.
“It is therefore vital that more and more individuals can understand how different solutions work and what they can be used for,” said Ville Valtonen, Managing Director at tech firm Reaktor Education, which created the course with Helsinki University.
The course, originally launched in 2018, has already enrolled more than 220,000 students from more than 110 countries.
It includes modules on machine learning, neural networks, the philosophy of artificial intelligence and using artificial intelligence to solve problems.
The course is available in English, Finnish, Swedish and Estonian so far, and Finland will translate it into all official EU languages next year.
The original goal of educating 1% of Finns, or about 55,000 people, was reached in a few months.
Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Anne Kauranen and Giles Elgood