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Human Centric Data Spaces – SEMIC Conference 2021

As part of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the international conference "Semantic Interoperability Community – SEMIC 2021", a key European event in the field of semantic interoperability, organised by the Ministry of Public Administration in collaboration with the European Commission, took place on Wednesday 8 December 2021. The title of the conference was "Human Centric Data Spaces – Powered by Interoperability".

minister sitting at the monitor

Minister of Public Administration opened the conference | Author Ministry of Public Administration

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The conference brought together a range of experts in the fields of data science, semantics and interoperability. Stakeholders from the public and private sectors discussed how different data sets can be exchanged between data providers and consumers, while protecting the ethical and legal aspects that put people at the centre. Semantic interoperability is crucial to the coherent flow of data and the creation of data spaces and a single market for data within the EU.

The online event, which was attended by more than 350 participants, was officially opened with opening remarks by the European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, the Slovenian Minister of Public Administration, Boštjan Koritnik, and the Director-General of DG DIGIT at the European Commission, Mario Campolargo.  

In his opening address, Minister Koritnik expressed his satisfaction that Slovenia, through the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency, is actively involved in promoting digital transformation, including data management, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. 

"The essential part of every data ecosystem is human centricity. This means putting people at the centre of the digital world in a way that allows them to trust data and technology and to believe that their rights, values and ethics are respected."                          Boštjan Koritnik, Minister of Public Administration

He recalled that the European strategy for data foresees a common European data space for EU public administrations and a digital single market to promote seamless access to and reuse of data. It aims to ensure competitiveness and data sovereignty in Europe that will support the development of an attractive, secure and dynamic data economy.

The European strategy on artificial intelligence provides the basis for dealing effectively with different forms, large volumes and complexity of data, in particular for the effective use of data to support decision-making and provision of services. Semantic interoperability refers to the true meaning of data, which is a major challenge in AI systems, especially when combining data from different systems. The important issue is to centre the digital world around humans as one of the key parts of digital transformation. According to Minister of Public Administration, Boštjan Koritnik, it is vital that we protect human rights, social welfare, scientific progress and ethical aspects based on European democratic values.

The plenary speaker of the conference was Marko Grobelnik from the Jožef Stefan Institute, digital champion and researcher in the field of artificial intelligence, active in a number of prestigious international committees and research groups and participant in the UNESCO International Research Centre on Artificial Intelligence in Slovenia. In his contribution “Real-time monitoring of AI for policy”, Grobelnik demonstrated his valuable experience and rich knowledge and gave a broader outline of automated creation and management of semantics with various rules, methodologies and tools.

In the continuation of the conference, Slovenia, as the presiding country of the EU Council, presented itself as a moderator of two parallel sections. The first section entitled “Showcasing the role of interoperability in public services” was moderated by Karmen Kern Pipan from the Directorate for Informatics at the Ministry of Public Administration, and the second entitled “Text mining and semantics” by Slavko Žitnik from the Faculty of Computer and Information Science at the University of Ljubljana. Experts from the Ministry of Public Administration presented two important projects in the field of data management and artificial intelligence. Miha Jesenko, in collaboration with Blaž Zupan from the Faculty of Computer and Information Science at the University of Ljubljana, presented an artificial intelligence tool for comparing unstructured texts in respect to the meaning (semantic comparison) – Semantic text analyser with the paper “Implementing a semantic analysis pipeline for public sector documents”, while Bernarda Kozelj and Boštjan Tovornik presented the common application widget Tray, a system for standardised execution of electronic data queries in the contribution “The Slovenian once only platform for data exchange and the TRAY solution”.

In the afternoon part of the conference, postgraduate and master students presented their research ideas in the Academic Speaking Corner. The moderators from Slovenia were Blaž Zupan and Dejan Lavbič, both from the Faculty of Computer and Information Science at the University of Ljubljana.

The conference ended with the panel discussion on the data spaces and the role of semantics, where participants exchanged views on e-procurement, smart cities and support centres for data sharing.

See the key highlights of the Conference.