The UK should follow Finland's lead with it comes to AI training

Finland's free online AI course will be available to all EU citizens and the UK should follow suit, according to industry experts

When it comes to AI education and training, the UK should follow in the footsteps of Finland, according to industry body techUK.

At the start of December, the Finnish government announced it would offer every EU citizen free access to an online course focused on AI. 

The Elements of AI programme was initially launched in Finland last year, but the country's government has decided to translate it into all official languages spoken within the European Union as a gift to mark the end of Finland's rotating presidency.

It's a six-week course that was designed by the University of Helsinki and software company Reaktor to encourage people to learn AI basics of without the need for coding or complicated maths. 

"Too often people believe that learning tech skills isn't for them," said Nimmi Patel, programme manager for skills and diversity at techUK. "This programme helps to dispel that myth. 

"Free online tools make AI learning more accessible and gives everyone the opportunity to equip themselves with digital skills for the future. This is an area that we can, and should, strive to do more of in the UK."

Since its initial launch, the Elements of AI course has proved popular. The original goal was to have one percent of the Finish population (some 55,000 people) study the basics of AI. That was surpassed within months and today it is the most popular course ever offered by the University of Helsinki. 

It's currently available in English, Estonian, Finnish, and Swedish and will be rolled out in more EU languages throughout 2020. 

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"The significance of AI is growing," said Timo Harakka, Finland's minister for employment.

"To make use of it, we need digital skills. Changing labour markets, the transformation of work, digitalisation and intensifying global competition all mean one thing for the EU: we must invest in people. Every EU citizens should have the opportunity to pursue continuous lifelong learning, regardless of age and educational background." 

Harakka continued: "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." 

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