Concern over AI outweighs confidence in its value for Australian businesses

27 May 2019 3 min. read

While businesses in Australia perceive investment in artificial intelligence (AI) to be remarkably urgent, a number of them appear not to be ready for the advent of AI technology, according to a new report from global professional services firm Deloitte. 

The advent of AI and other Industry 4.0 technology has disrupted several economies across the globe. While major corporations across the globe have managed to keep pace with the changes in technology by making steady and substantial investments, most other businesses are struggling to remain competitive.

Deloitte’s new report highlights that businesses in Australia are suffering from this exact predicament. A number of firms understand the critical nature of AI to their operations in the future, with nearly 80% indicating this in Deloitte’s survey. As a result, most businesses are willing to invest.

Confidence in AI's value

However, the motivation behind these investments reveals the struggle that businesses are facing. “50 percent of AI early adopters from Australia report that AI helps them “catch up” or “keep up” to their competition, rather than establish a distinct lead,” reads the Deloitte report.

This sentiment was recorded amongst a higher number of businesses in Australia than anywhere else in the world. According to the report, such a sentiment indicates a lack of readiness in the country, despite knowledge of AI’s potential and recognition of its importance in the future.

One possible reason for this could be a lack of comprehensive AI strategies. As per the report, more than 40% of Australian companies reported either that they had no AI strategy in place at all, or that these strategies were fragmented and on a small scale. The same response was recorded by 30% of firms globally.

AI early adopters

Another cause for Australia’s lack of AI readiness could be what Deloitte terms as a “skill-gap.” Experts have increasingly been stating the shift in the nature of skills required to operate in collaboration with AI tools. One-third of Australian companies said that their skill gap was “major” or “extreme.”

This figure is higher than anywhere else in the world, although the firms appear to have identified the areas where they need more talent. “They indicated that their most acute needs are AI researchers, business leaders, and software developers,” reads the report.

Deloitte’s report examined the status of AI readiness across several major economies across the globe, which include France, the UK, Canada, the US, Germany, China and Australia. The common finding amongst all of these countries was that businesses are weary of the risks that AI poses to their operations.

Concern about AI risks

In this category too, Australia was home to the highest number of firms that expressed concern. On the flipside, the outlook is not all bad for the country. The government has published a plan of action for AI implementation across the country, and has deployed nearly AU$ 30 million towards the plan over the next four years. 

Moreover, Australia appears to have organised its AI scenario in some areas. The good news is that the majority (59 percent) of organizations from Australia are already using AI-as-a service technology, allowing them to tap into AI capabilities without needing to build their own infrastructure or establish specialized in-house expertise,” reads the report.