The proliferation of artificial intelligence technology will have a bigger impact on the global economy and society than the internet, according to outgoing Cisco Australia chief technology officer Kevin Bloch.
Australia’s place at the table in the development of these new artificial intelligence technologies and systems that will underpin all sectors of the economy in decades to come is far from certain.
Even Australia’s largest companies had not yet come to grips with the importance of the shift toward AI tech and with few exceptions were not directing adequate resources into R&D.
Mr Bloch will leave Cisco on Friday after 21 years at the company, including the last 12 years as its chief technology officer.
It is only a little ironic that at the height of a global pandemic and all the economic uncertainty it has wrought, Mr Bloch says the scale of the opportunities in the tech sector are such that the time is right for a move.
It helps also that after a career in corporate tech that he is personally ready for a new challenge, in helping Australian companies to generate and commercialise intellectual property.
Growth in the technology sector is about to shift gears into over-drive, and the opportunities for Australia are tremendous. He has founded Bloch Advisory to pursue those opportunities.
The outstanding opportunity for Australia is in understanding the value that a significant national capability in artificial intelligence can add across virtually all sectors of the economy.
“The impact of AI will be bigger than the impact that the Internet has had on the global economy,” Mr Bloch told InnovationAus.
“If you look at the [leading tech companies] in the world, they have invested in AI, they have embraced Ai and they are moving ahead in leaps and bounds because of it. Their market caps reflect that fact,” he said.
“And Australian companies are still coming to grips with artificial intelligence and what it means to their particular industry.”
“It is very simple. Machines can do and see things that humans cannot. There are many thousands of examples of that. The more we understand that, the smarter and more competitive we can be as a nation.”
“The question now is how do we get our business leaders in this country to really understand what AI is. If they don’t, their companies will at best be less competitive and at worst they won’t be around any longer,” Mr Bloch said.
Global leaders in technology routinely invest 10 per cent to 30 per cent of revenue back into research and development, whereas Australian corporates typically invest less than 5 per cent of revenue.
“This paucity of investment is costing us our place on the global leader board of innovation and it’s only going to get worse unless we seriously address this systemic lack of investment in our tech innovators,” Mr Bloch said.