The benefits of being behind the curve

The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) has rapidly gained traction in people’s professional and personal lives across the globe. 

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However, despite growing enthusiasm towards AI, Australians are lagging behind their international counterparts in both uptake and outlook.

"Concerns around personal data may pose a barrier for businesses trying to get their customers to embrace AI.”

According to Genpact’s research series, AI 360: insights from the next frontier of business, there has been significant progress in attitudes towards AI since the inaugural 2017 study - 53 per cent of consumers globally say AI is making their lives better, up from just a third in 2017.

Australians, however, lag behind counterparts in the United States and United Kingdom when it comes to embracing AI. Only 43 per cent of Australians believe AI is improving their lives, compared with 48 per cent of UK consumers and 59 per cent in the US.

The research shows concerns around personal data may pose a barrier for businesses trying to get their customers to embrace AI. Nearly three quarters of Australian consumers say they don’t want companies using AI that intrudes on their privacy, even if the goal is to optimise their experience.

Consumers also worry about AI discriminating against them in its decisions, with 84 per cent of Australians saying they think it’s important companies take active measures to reduce AI bias. While the good news is most businesses are taking some action to combat AI bias, only 31 per cent of Australian executives surveyed say their companies have comprehensive governance and internal control frameworks.

While consumer hesitation may frustrate many senior executives, 99 per cent of respondents say their companies plan to implement AI-related technologies in the next three years. For them, the lower penetration of AI in the local market may be a blessing in disguise, longer term, as it provides the opportunity for Australian to learn from other markets.

As the UK and US markets advance their AI adoption across personal and professional use, there are a range of complex issues facing employees, workers, and regulators, including AI bias and governance.

The ways the US and UK resolve these issues will naturally vary. As a later adopter, Australia will have the option to cherry pick solutions from both the US and UK based on their success, ease of implementation and the specific needs of our market.

In addition, Australian businesses need to engage their staff to foster AI acceptance, drawing on key lessons from other markets to determine how best to ease employees’ reservations about implementing AI in the workforce and providing opportunities to upskill.

When it comes to AI’s impact on the workforce, Australians are the most fearful in comparison with other countries surveyed, especially when looking ahead. Approximately one-in-three Australian workers believe AI threatens their job (compared with 28 per cent globally) and 56 per cent worry AI will threaten the jobs of their children and future generations (46 per cent globally).

Despite these concerns, 69 per cent of Australian workers say they expect to see benefits from AI in the workplace and almost half (48 per cent) say they will be comfortable working with robots within three years.

Senior executives, however, are much more optimistic: 85 per cent believe their employees will be happy working with robots in the same time frame. Businesses must therefore address this expectation gap when managing their workforce.

Already, US and UK businesses are facing some of the real-world challenges that emerge when integrating AI in the workforce. For senior executives looking to encourage swift AI acceptance in their employees, education is vital.

The good news is, both globally and locally, employees are eager to take on training to shore up their future jobs. In Australia, 77 per cent are open to learning new skills so they can take advantage of AI. By watching the rollout of training in other markets, Australian executives will have a blueprint of how best to future-proof both their employees and their businesses.

There is much potential for Australia to successfully adopt AI technologies, and for both businesses and consumers to benefit from the opportunities it will present.

By observing the approaches taken by the UK and US, collaborating on implementation and sharing knowledge to ensure best practice, the Australian market will be in a much stronger position when AI adoption picks up momentum locally.

Richard Morgan is Country Manager of Australia & New Zealand for Genpact

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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