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Balkan AI Leaders Against the Covid-19: How AI Will Help Recovery?

14th of April was an important date for the Balkan AI community. For the first time, representatives of 8 cities of this region (including Ljubljana) gathered at a Balkan AI webinar to discuss How AI will help the world’s recovery after the pandemic of Coronavirus? 

More than 150 people attended the event which was organized by the CITY AI branch in the Balkans and Serbian AI Society. All the challenges that pandemic faced us were analyzed from an AI perspective, through interesting and inspirational discussions of the following speakers: 

  • Viktor Kovačević – Comtrade Ljubljana (Slovenia)
  • Davor Runje – CroAI, Zagreb (Croatia)
  • Goran Stojanovski – Skopje AI (Macedonia)
  • Adnan Mehremić – Sarajevo AI (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Mladen Jovanović – Belgrade AI (Serbia)
  • Gojko Galonja – Banja Luka AI (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • Jovan Stojanović – Novi Sad/Belgrade AI (Serbia)
  • Aleksa Radosavčević – Kragujevac AI (Serbia)

How are connected information systems, health and data in the age of Covid-19?

Those three magic words create a triangle which, in ideal conditions, could make every country able to fight Coronavirus! How?

Starting the panel it was stated that the Balkans is affected, just like many other regions in the world, by a wave of fake news related to the pandemic. Various channels of communications offer much information from unproven sources, and governments are not able to properly validate all the upcoming news. 

“It’s necessary to work hard on developing better digital services that could improve the information sector, that is invaluable in a state of emergency”, said Gojko Galonja, co-founder of Banja Luka AI. A similar opinion was shared by Adnan Mehremić, co-founder of Sarajevo AI. He sees the solution in “specialized regulatory agencies that would be developed by governments around the world.”

Still, the proposed solutions require serious insight into the citizens’ private data. Are worldwide citizens open enough for this? How do countries react when privacy is the key for big problem solutions? Here is what panelists think. 

We can follow two models of behavior related to citizens’ private data

Jovan Stojanović, founder of Serbian AI Society and panel host drew an interesting parallel between China, whose law doesn’t impose significant restrictions on access to citizens’ private data and European countries that have much more restrictive policy in the field of private data security. 

We could say that western countries in general have much more advanced law systems, but considering that China has successfully solved the virus problem unlike the rest of the world, how should we look at this model of private data treatment? 

Panel attendees were asked would they provide their private data for the purpose of resolving some big problem like coronavirus, where 32% answered with “yes”, 12% said “no”, and the rest of attendees chose “maybe”.

Davor Runje from CroAI stated: “Data can make a big difference, and there is no room for paranoia.” He was supported by other panelists who emphasized the importance of being aware of what kind of privacy we share and for what purpose. 

“There is a big difference between using private data for helping people and in a commercial way. Nobody wants to share it’s privacy if there is an obvious risk of monetizing it, without their permission”, said Aleksa Radosavčević, representative of Kragujevac AI. 

If the aim is saving someone’s life using an application or another AI solution based on citizens private data, then why not share them? Government should be the one who provides safe and regular use of specific data that really makes a difference, but we are the ones who already share a lot of our privacy on a daily basis. Think about social media!

AI can help the medicine and we already can experience it

One of the central questions of Balkan AI webinar was related to industries that are most affected by Covid-19. There is no industry that wouldn’t feel the problematic consequences of pandemic, but we definitely should single out medicine. 

One of the questions during the panel was: “In your opinion, what industry will be improved the most by AI?”. Among many offered options such as agriculture, IT industry, financial sector and many others, even 83% of attendees checked the medicine. 

Medical experts have worldwide attention in difficult periods, but is there a place for AI solutions that could help them in treatment of Coronavirus? 

We will experience great AI issues in the coming future, that’s for sure, but there are many examples of how AI is getting the fight with Coronavirus today. One of them was mentioned on this panel. CroAI has presented to the region the virtual assistant created by this organization, in purpose of helping the Government of Croatia in recognition of Covid-19 symptoms. 

Virtual assistant named Andrija is able for What’s App users, who can get advice from him in case they are in panic about the Coronavirus. 

What are the main expectations about the world economy?

World economy wouldn’t be the same after Covid-19, but how would it look like? The United Nations predict that more than 25 million jobs could be lost globally during the pandemic.

Viktor Kovačević, Technology office chief at Comtrade noted that everyone will be affected by the pandemic, but after the state of emergency, we will be able to see a clear difference between those who can survive by working remotely and the other businesses that are absolutely disabled during the pandemic.

Mladen Jovanović, representative of Belgrade AI, shared an opinion that every crisis is an opportunity to be prepared for the next one. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t have a history with the coronavirus, but we create it right now, and that data will be very important in future crises in both economic and healthcare aspects.

According to Goran Stojanovski, co-founder of Skopje AI, this situation also indicates that it’s necessary to develop the Balkans entrepreneurial culture, that can give us very successful stories and useful products made right here – in our region for all the world. 

Collaboration is the key – AI can help the region 

The Balkans is ready to make a step to a brighter future fulfilled with great AI solutions. Balkan AI webinar proved that we have a big potential to fight with even global problems, but as panelists agreed, joining the regional AI forces is just the first step. 

We have a responsibility to support perspective ideas, raising startups and new AI projects in the Balkans and the rest of the world. 

Promoting innovative AI solutions is also a main purpose of Wonderland AI Summit, which will be held in Belgrade in October, in presence of major AI decision makers. Take a look on our tickets and join us in spreading great ideas! See you at WAIS 2020!