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Signs Australia is taking a “she’ll be right” approach to Gen AI adoption

20 MAY 2024: Two-thirds of students and more than half of employees in Australia have experience with Generative AI (Gen AI) technology but our adoption rate is among the lowest in the Asia Pacific, indicating business must do more to encourage Gen AI use in the workplace or risk being left behind.

These findings form part of Deloitte’s Generative AI in Asia Pacific: Young employees lead as employers play catch-up report, which surveyed 11,900 individuals in Asia Pacific to assess the rate of Gen AI adoption across countries the region.

According to the report 38% of Australian employees now use Gen AI at work, up almost 20% on last year. However, Australia also has the second lowest share of Gen AI users (including employees and students for use at work, study, or personal purposes) in the Asia Pacific at 54% compared to a regional average of 67%.

Meanwhile, just under one-third of Australians have begun improving their Gen AI skills through self-directed research or formal study, compared to half across the Asia Pacific and more than 70% in China.

Deloitte Access Economics Lead Technology Partner, John O’Mahony said although proportionally younger labour forces in developing countries was one factor behind their higher Gen AI adoption rates, there were also signs Australia is taking a “she’ll be right” approach to adoption.

“Australia and its institutions are perhaps too comfortable and relaxed about the transformative implications of Gen AI on the global economy,” Mr O’Mahony said.

“We can’t afford to sit on our hands. The report finds Gen AI users save approximately a day per week (6.3 hours) on tasks – an enormous productivity uplift of the kind the Australian economy badly needs. It also finds its largest disruptive potential is to professional and managerial roles, which account for 39% of Australia’s workforce.”

“It appears more employers are accepting Gen AI as a part of their organisation’s daily workflow, with 56% of employees who use Gen AI at work now doing so with the belief management know about it, a jump of 20% in the past year.

“But there is still a long way to go with almost half of employees using Gen AI say they are not aware of any actions taken by their business to respond to the rapid emergence of the technology in the workforce.”

Australian employees are now more concerned than ever about the risks of Gen AI.

The report has also found Australian employees are growing more concerned about potential risks posed by Gen AI, which could be another factor hampering adoption.

For example, in 2023, 73% of employees were concerned about Gen AI making factual errors. By 2024, this percentage had increased to 87%. Other major concerns for Australian employees in 2024 include the misuse of personal, confidential, or sensitive information (89% of surveyed respondents), legal risk and copyright infringement (84%) and a lack of accountability (84%).

Deloitte Australia Lead Strategy & Business Design Partner and AI Institute Lead Dr Kellie Nuttall said business leaders must move fast to address these risks and empower employees to fully adopt Gen AI.

“Many of these areas of concern arise from incomplete knowledge of the potential and limitations of Gen AI technology and its applications and a misplaced sentiment about the technology’s legitimacy,” she said.

“AI is here to stay, and employers must move to educate their workforce on the technology and transparently adapt it across business functions where it drives the most value.”

The rise of Gen AI means that business leaders and employees need to think strategically and act proactively. Based on the analysis of the report’s findings, three moves with high-impact potential
stand out:

  1. Develop and implement a Gen AI strategy that focuses on the core value areas of your business. The strategy should outline how Gen AI can help boost the competitive advantage of your business and include plans to engage employees.
  2. Empower your employees to own their Gen AI journey. This could involve delivering short training sessions with practical examples, leveraging expertise from trusted partners, and encouraging greater collaboration between employees using the technology. Maintaining competitive advantage will require businesses to proactively upskill their employees, rather than waiting for education providers to catch up.
  3. Develop your data infrastructure and data governance iteratively as needed to embrace Gen AI. This may include improvements to the quality of structured data through data cleaning, as well as the establishment of a key governance framework for managing risks. 

Dr Nuttall concluded that when it comes to Gen AI adoption, there are no shortcuts.

“Organisations that move early to work out how Gen AI can deliver the most value for them will develop an enormous competitive advantage. And when adoption is across an entire economy, that economy will also develop an edge over others.”