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AI adoption stalling despite huge industry growth

Mistrust, potential bias, a lack of transparency – these are the factors holding back the many Asia-Pacific organisations’ adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), according to a poll recently conducted in an Ernst & Young (EY) webinar.

Caution has risen in tandem with the global emergence of AI technologies, with the three above factors resonating especially in Australia - 70% of participants in the poll cited them as the biggest barriers to raising trust in AI.

EY Asia-Pacific intelligent automation leader Andy Gillard says facial recognition technology, in particular, is worrying citizens across the APAC region.

“Trust is the foundation on which organisations can build stakeholder and consumer confidence and active participation with AI systems,” says Gillard.

“With the risks of AI spanning across several domains, introducing new mechanisms to address the unique risks of AI is needed - such as the development of frameworks and guidelines.”

Barriers to trust in AI are one of the most significant barriers to adoption, but estimates indicate the Asia-Pacific region is in prime position to become the leader in implementing AI technologies.

Chinese organisations make up 17 of the top 20 academic players in AI patenting as well as 10 of the top 20 in AI-related scientific publications2. And of the top 20 AI patent applicant companies, 12 are Japanese conglomerates.

But with digital transformation comes obstacles. EY assurance digital trust leader Oceania, Christina Larkin, says the issue of overcoming differing national regulations and cultural norms of what is deemed acceptable is a challenging one.

“To maximise the real value of AI, business leaders must first build trust with internal and external stakeholders to clear up doubts about the data being collected and used in their AI systems,” says Larkin.

A Gartner study released last year reported that US$2.9 trillion of business value will be created through AI globally in 2021. 

The EY poll revealed almost one-fifth of those polled (18.8%) expressed that they were exploring AI solutions that may be relevant to their industry. 

The poll also showed that almost half of the polling participants (41%) were interested in exploring AI but were not sure where to start.

“Asia-Pacific organisations need to view an AI implementation through a human lens rather than treat it as a strictly technological effort,” says EY advisory leader for AI and analytics Asia-Pacific Gavin Seewooruttun.

"To do this, leaders have to demonstrate their commitment to being accountable for AI.” 

The EY poll revealed a large chunk of participants (52.3%) believed process automation would be the primary benefit of AI for their business.

Generating new revenue potential through products and processes was also a popular draw, with 18.8% of participants rating it as a primary benefit.

Streamlining work processes and the workforce in general is also seen as a major lure for companies interested in adopting AI.

But PatSnap founder and CEO Jeffrey Tiong cautions that AI should not be seen as a hard and fast solution for organisations looking to simplify their entire workflow.

“AI is an enabler. It is not a solution by itself per se. It is really contextually driven.”