Artificial intelligence (AI) has become one of the most significant emerging technologies of the past few years. Some market estimates anticipate that AI will contribute 16 trillion dollars to the global GDP (gross domestic product) by 2030. While there has been accelerating interest in implementing AI as a technology, there has been concurrent growth in interest in implementing successful AI strategies. Some key elements of such strategies that have emerged include explainable AI, trusted AI, AI ethics, operationalizing AI, scaling sustainable AI operations, workforce development (training), and how to speed up all of this development.
The 2020 year of the pandemic has forced organizations to speed up their digital transformation and advanced technology adoption plans, essentially compressing several years of anticipated developments into several months. These accelerated developments cover a wide scope, including: technology-enabled remote work solutions, technology-enhanced health and safety programs, AI-powered implementations of “all of the above”, and sharpened focus and attention on their workforce: future of work in the age of AI, AI-assisted human work and process enhancements, and training initiatives (including data literacy and AI).
In the recent 2020 RELX Emerging Tech Study, results were presented from a survey of over 1000 U.S. senior executives across eight industries: agriculture, banking, exhibitions, government, healthcare, insurance, legal, and science/medical. The survey, carried out by RELX (a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers), focused on the state of interest, investment, and implementations in AI tech during the pandemic period. But it was not just a snapshot on the state of AI in 2020. The survey also had forward-looking questions, as well as historical comparisons and trends from results of similar “state of AI in the enterprise” surveys in 2018 and 2019.
Some of the most remarkable findings in the 3-year trending data include these changes from 2018 to 2020:
1) The percentage of senior executives who stated that AI technologies are being utilized in their business dramatically increased from 48% to 81%.
2) The percentage who are concerned about other countries being more advanced than the U.S. in AI technology and implementation increased from 70% to 82%.
3) The percentage who believe that government programs should assist in AI workforce development increased from 45% to 59%.
4) There was a slight increase (though still a minority) in those who believe that the government should leave the promotion of AI technologies to the private sector, growing from 30% to 36%.
5) There is a continued (and growing) strong belief that U.S. companies should invest in the future AI workforce through educational initiatives such as university partnerships, increasing from 92% to 95%.
6) The percentage who are offering training opportunities in AI technologies to their workforce increased significantly from 46% to 75%.
Some of the interesting findings specifically in the 2020 survey results include:
1) Across all sectors, a strong majority (86%) of survey respondents believe that ethical considerations are a strategic priority in the design and implementation of their AI systems, ranging from 77% in government and 80% in the legal sectors, up to 93% in banking and 94% in the insurance sectors, with healthcare and science/medical near the middle of that range.
2) The majority (68%) of respondents stated that they increased their investment in AI technologies, 48% of which invested in new AI technologies. The sectors with the greatest increases in investment were insurance, banking, and agriculture, followed closely by healthcare and science/medical.
3) 82% stated that AI technologies are most likely to be used to increase efficiencies and worker productivities.
4) Only 26% of respondents reported that AI technologies are being used to replace human labor.
Regarding the last point, this minority view regarding AI’s potential negative impact on employment is consistent with a 2019 worldwide survey of 19,000 employers, which found that 87% plan to increase or maintain the size of their staff as a result of automation and AI, and that just 9% of companies across the globe and 4% in the U.S. anticipate cutting jobs. Another report stated, “Rather, than being replaced, humans will be redeployed into higher-order jobs requiring more cognitive skills.”
The broader takeaways and insights drawn from the 2020 RELX Emerging Tech survey are these:
(a) COVID-19 drove increased AI tech investment and adoption.
(b) The use of AI has increased across all sectors that were polled.
(c) Ethical AI is viewed as both a priority and a competitive advantage.
(d) International competition remains a concern for U.S. organizations.
(e) AI workforce training and development is a major component of AI strategy, though AI implementations consistently outpace training initiatives.
- “Businesses’ response to COVID-19 has confirmed the view of US business leaders that artificial intelligence has the power to create smarter, more agile and profitable businesses.”
- “Businesses face more complex challenges every day and AI technologies have become a mission-critical resource in adapting to, if not overcoming, these types of unforeseen obstacles and staying resilient.”
- “Companies that do not dedicate the necessary resources to training existing employees on new AI technologies risk leaving growth opportunities on the table and using biased or otherwise flawed systems to make and enforce major decisions.”
Therefore, when we consider AI strategy, a global perspective is no less important than local organization-specific mission objectives. Understanding your competition, the marketplace, and both the current expectations and future needs of your stakeholders (customers, employees, citizens, and shareholders) is vital. Furthermore, non-technology considerations should be incorporated alongside technology implementation and operationalization requirements. Performance metrics and goals associated with AI governance, ethics, talent, and training must be on the same balance sheet as AI tools, techniques, and technologies. How to bring all of these pieces together in a successful AI strategy has become clearer with the results and insights revealed in the 2020 RELX Emerging Tech survey.
You can find and read the full RELX survey report here: http://bit.ly/relx-emerging-tech-kb