AI uptake inhibited by security and data quality concerns: CSIRO

Brandon How

Security and data quality concerns are the largest barriers to AI system adoption by businesses in Australia, according to a report by CSIRO’s National Artificial Intelligence Centre.

Of the decision-makers responding to surveys undertaken by Forrester, 59 per cent highlighted the potential for new security threats and poor data quality as the top two barriers to AI uptake. Privacy was also highlighted as a major concern, according to the report.

Implementation of AI projects is also complex, with an average of four AI technology and service providers for each AI project, reported by IT and business decision-makers. Six providers were necessary on projects for 28 per cent of respondents, while only 17 per cent worked with just a single provider.

Despite the challenges, 60 per cent of respondents said they are “accelerating and expanding their AI-related solution offerings to meet market demand”. The top three benefits of AI uptake were improved security (42 per cent), greater revenue growth (38 per cent), and increased cyber safety (35 per cent).

On average, decision-makers reported a 30 per cent time savings for existing processes following the implementation of an AI-enable solution, as well as more than $360,000 of incremental revenue generated per initiative.

The survey also highlighted that budgets for AI uptake are usually included in “an organisation’s research and development (R&D) or other already-constrained innovation budgets”. Demonstration of a clear return-on-investment was highlighted by 51 per cent of respondents as the most important consideration when looking to increase investment in AI.

A non-exhaustive list of ‘AI technology’ is included in the report, which spans any hardware and/or software elements used to “improve business performance and outcomes through the automation of tasks, interactions, decision‑making, and data analytics”.

In the report, the national centre claimed that AI will be “pivotal to increasing productivity, improving experiences and innovations through automating routine work, generating intelligence-based conversations, and processing large amounts of data”.

Industry and science minister Ed Husic, who launched the report on ‘Australia’s AI Ecosystem Momentum’, said the release of the report is timely and suggests a “more nuanced direction for AI in Australia”.

“AI is one of those enabling capabilities that’s poised to transform industries, and we know the economic potential is there. But seizing that business potential will take some work, building awareness and working across businesses, large and small, to make that a reality,” Mr Husic said.

“Australia’s got some top AI talent here and we need to scale up this effort for the longer benefit of the nation. AI should be seen as more than just a business tool. We can put it to work to benefit communities and national wellbeing too.”

His statement also highlights that seizing on Australia’s AI opportunities could add between $1 trillion and $4 trillion to the economy over the next 15 years, according to a 2019 report by multinational consultancy McKinsey.

Forrester undertook two online surveys to inform the CSIRO report: one with “IT and business decision-makers with responsibility or influence over their organisation’s AI strategy”, and another with 100 AI provider decision-makers with responsibility or influence over their organisation’s AI commercial strategy or provision of AI-related solutions.

There were also four qualitative interviews undertaken, which targeted “IT and business decision-makers, as well as AI service providers in Australia”.

Of the respondents, 76 per cent of their companies are headquartered in Australia. Decision-makers from companies with less than 200 employees made up 51 per cent of the respondents.

CSIRO’s ‘once-in-a-decade’ Our Future World report highlighted the ongoing “explosion in AI discoveries and applications across practically all industry sectors” as one of the seven global megatrends faced by Australia.

According to the Productivity Commission, in 2020 three per cent of Australian firms used AI-based tools. Businesses in Ireland had the highest rate of AI uptake at a rate of 20 per cent.

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