Bulgaria lags in the development of AI projects

Bulgaria lags in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) projects, with Sofia allocating only 0.62% of digitalization funds for artificial intelligence projects, BGNES reported. Only the Netherlands spends less with 0.59%.

This is stated in a study by Papazoglu et al. for 2023. The study examines funds from the Next Generation EU (NGEU) instrument and its Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF).

NGEU and RRF account for 70% of total investments in digital transformation.

Bulgaria has been allocated 10.18 million of the 117 billion euros presented by the NGEU for digital transformation. Italy is in the lead with 42 billion allocated, and 49.8 million euros are planned for neighbouring Romania.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the global economic landscape, becoming a major force in the digital realm and driving innovation across sectors. According to industry forecasts, AI will contribute more than €11 trillion to the global economy by 2030. AI and robotics are expected to jointly drive the creation of around 60 million new jobs globally by 2025, underscoring the critical importance of digitization in driving economic growth.

In a focused effort to catch up with the world's technology leaders, the European Union is stepping up its efforts to integrate and develop AI, with a special focus on strengthening digital infrastructure and capabilities in its member states.

Despite these optimistic forecasts, however, challenges remain.

Velina Lilianova, a researcher at the European Parliament's Research Office, highlighted the slow adoption of AI in Europe in critical sectors such as healthcare and public administration.

"Europe has a weakness in this regard," she argued in her recent study, "AI Investments in National Recovery and Resilience Plans."

Lilianova points out that Europe faces several challenges that hinder the wider adoption of AI, including regulatory barriers, trust issues, digital skills shortages and low levels of company digitization.

"Member states need to address these barriers to facilitate widespread entry," she said, stressing the need for regulatory reforms, increasing digital skills and boosting companies' digitization.

The European Commission has set ambitious targets for 2030: the aim is for 90% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU to achieve at least a basic level of digital intensity, and for 75% of companies in the EU to implement technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence and big data.

Strategies for investing in AI vary widely across countries, ranging from direct funding of research and development (R&D) to indirect support through digitization of business and public services, as detailed by Lilianova.

Spain's National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) specifically allocates funds to strengthen AI development, to position the country as a leader in AI scientific excellence and innovation. The plan focuses on the development of AI tools and applications in Spanish to increase productivity in the private sector and efficiency in public administration.

Italy's AI Strategic Program (2022-2024), aligned with the EU's broader AI strategy, aims to make the country a global centre for AI research and innovation by boosting skills and attracting leading AI talent. /BGNES