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Decoding the global AI advantage

Deloitte Global report assesses AI readiness and maturity across countries

NEW YORK, NY, 1 May 2019–In the coming years, artificial intelligence (AI) will exert an enormous impact on economic development and the nature of work. It will also radically reshape the competitive dynamics of many industries. A new Deloitte Global study released today, “Future in the balance? How countries are pursuing an AI advantage – Insights from Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise, 2nd Edition survey,” examines the growing importance of AI and what we can learn from early adopters across seven countries.

The survey found that 57 per cent of early AI adopters believe it will transform their company within the next three years. Early AI adopters are using AI to improve both their external and internal capabilities – enhancing products and services and optimising internal business operations. Sixty-three per cent of early adopters say that AI technologies are “very” or “critically” important to their business success today and that number is expected to increase to 81 per cent in just two years.

Yet, AI initiatives also present an array of challenges and risks, some of which are perceived differently across regions. Globally 43 per cent of executives said they have major or extreme concerns about potential AI risks. Filling the AI skill gap is a significant issue, with 68 per cent of global respondents indicating moderate-to-extreme skill gaps. Other top concerns include cybersecurity vulnerabilities and making incorrect decisions based on AI recommendations.

Paths to successful AI implementation and use differ greatly and countries are at varying stages of the process. By examining countries’ challenges and how they are addressing them, we can glean some essential best practices

says Paul Sallomi, Deloitte Global Technology, Media & Telecommunications industry leader.

"For example, some countries are more concerned about addressing skill gaps. Others are focussing on how AI can improve decision-making or cybersecurity capabilities. While there is intense competition among countries and companies, all adopters can learn from one another and early success will depend on getting execution right."

There is a growing realisation of AI’s importance, including its ability to provide competitive advantage and change work for the better,

says Jeff Loucks, executive director, Deloitte Center for Technology, Media and Telecommunications, Deloitte LLP.

"To tap into these opportunities and ensure AI success, organisations must excel at a wide range of practices, including strategy development, pursuing the right use case, building a data foundation and possessing a strong ability to experiment. These capabilities are critical now because, as AI becomes even easier to consume, the window for competitive differentiation will shrink."

Key takeaways from the report’s country analysis of AI readiness and adoption include:

  • Australia is playing catch up: Organisations from Australia hold a positive view of the strategic importance of AI to their success. Seventy-nine per cent believe AI will be “very” or “critically” important to their business within two years. Despite the optimism, 50 per cent 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—the highest rate of all countries. It appears there’s a mismatch between perceived levels of urgency and readiness.
  • Canada exhibits caution: Canada is taking a cautious approach, with only 25 perc ent of early adopters from Canada indicating they currently embed AI into their products and services, the lowest of all countries. Yet at the national level, Canada is making a concerted effort to bolster its collective AI capabilities. This is especially true for talent, where the government has put forth policies to make immigration an easier, more open process for those with AI-related skill sets.
  • China prioritises R&D: The Chinese government is investing heavily in AI research and development, and 85 per cent of respondents from China expect that in two years AI will be very or critically important to their organisation’s success—the highest level globally. Organisations from China are demonstrating signs of strategic maturity by putting policies, procedures and metrics in place to succeed with AI. Almost half (46 per cent) indicate they have a comprehensive, organisationwide strategy for adopting AI.
  • France aspires to empower its people: The French government is making it a priority to develop AI both domestically and by working broadly with the European Union. Seventy-six per cent of early adopters from France believe that AI will augment human capabilities. But the survey also reveals that early adopters in France are struggling to obtain talent and to integrate AI into their organisations’ processes.
  • Germany turns fears into strengths: The German government is looking to accelerate adoption and development of AI technologies, but AI early adopters appear to struggle more with some of the ethical concerns surrounding AI. Their top ethical concerns are using AI to manipulate information and create falsehoods and potential job cuts. However, the workforce concerns have translated to a more holistic approach to filling the AI talent gap - respondents from Germany are more likely than their counterparts from other countries to have a strong focus on AI training.
  • The UK bets big on AI: With a thriving startup scene and heavy government investment, the UK is an enthusiastic participant in the global AI revolution. Forty-five per cent of respondents from the UK say AI will be of critical importance to their near-future success and 60 per cent expect to increase their AI investment more than 10 per cent next fiscal year. This is the highest rate for both of these measures among all countries surveyed.
  • US recognises AI challenges: The US continues to be a leader in public and private AI research, but with sophistication comes recognition of the complexities and challenges. Cybersecurity is a top concern for executives in the US, second only to China. Forty-seven per cent of respondents from the US are concerned about sensitive data being stolen and 45 per cent worry that outsiders will influence AI models.

Please visit Deloitte Insights to read the full report.

As used in this press release, “Deloitte” refers only to the Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited member firms and their affiliates.