Report shows Aussie enterprises not ready for AI

Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise report investigated market readiness across seven countries

While the majority of Australian businesses agree AI will provide them with a significant competitive advantage in the coming years, few are prepared for the implementation and risks that go along with AI, a new report shows.

Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise report investigated market readiness across seven countries to effectively leverage AI technologies, such as machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing.

The report found just 17 per cent of Australian enterprises are ‘seasoned’ AI adopters, only 34 per cent have a company-wide AI strategy; however, 56 per cent believe AI is critically important to success and 51 per cent believe AI will transform their business within three years.

According to the report, organisations from Australia hold a positive view of the strategic importance of AI to their success and 79 per cent believe AI will be ‘very’ or ‘critically’ important to their business within two years.

Fifty per cent of AI early adopters from Australia report AI helps them ‘catch up’ or ‘keep up’ to their competition, however, 41 per cent report their company either completely lacks an AI strategy or has only disparate departmental strategies, versus only 30 per cent globally.

The skills gap also presents a major obstacle, with a third of respondents from Australia reporting a major or extreme skills gap in AI. Potential AI risks present another worry, with 49 per cent of early adopters reporting major or extreme concern.

The 2018–19 national budget allocated $29.9 million over four years to boost Australia’s AI capabilities; however, this is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions being spent by other countries, such as China and the US.

Australian businesses are the most concerned about the risks of AI and the least prepared to deal with them. 

The top two concerns within Australia and globally relate to AI cybersecurity vulnerabilities and making the wrong decisions based on AI recommendations. 

Deloitte partner, Alan Marshall, said we are living in a time of extreme change. Technology is developing at a staggering pace and in many ways it’s making our lives easier. “But it’s important we don’t let the benefits of technological advancements get away from us. AI is proliferating through our professional and personal lives, redefining the way we do business and engage with each other. 

“This report exposes just how far behind Australia is in its AI technology development compared to countries like China, Germany and the US. Australian business and government need to band together, build a unified strategy, and put sufficient funding into our AI technologies.”

“Globally, 43 percent of executives have major or extreme concerns about AI risks and only 40 percent believe they are fully prepared to address those risks. That’s a frightening statistic.

“More concerning is that Australia is in the worst shape of the seven countries surveyed, with 49 percent of early adopters reporting ‘major’ or ‘extreme’ concern.” 

“Because AI is evolving so quickly, we’re facing a shortage of professionals who can understand, develop and implement AI technologies. 

“The report found Australia had the second largest skills gap at 72 per cent. That’s a substantial crack that we need to fill, and do so quickly. 

“On the plus side, Australia is responding to the skills gap by being more willing than other countries (59%) to adopt AI-as-a-service from cloud providers which limits the infrastructure and in-house expertise ramp up costs.” 

“However, AI experts are warning that greater levels of spending are required to keep up with other countries. Take China, for example; it has a comprehensive national AI strategy and plans to spend billions to become a world-leading AI innovator. Beijing announced a US$2.1 billion AI-centric technology park and Tianjin plans to set up a US$16 billion AI fund. 

“Australia has a long way to go before it can play at that level in AI. But there are many paths to AI excellence, and this is just the beginning for our country. 

“By examining AI early adopters through a global lens, we can learn from each other, and understand how best to progress in the AI technology space. This will enable a more informed and balanced approach for companies around the world seeking to develop their AI capabilities.” 

Deloitte surveyed 1,900 IT and line-of-business executives from companies that are prototyping or implementing AI solutions from seven countries.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  

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