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AI adoption accelerated during COVID—but is it moving too fast?

by | Mar 30, 2021 | Uncategorized

COVID has accelerated the pace of artificial intelligence adoption, but many say it’s moving too fast, according to new research from organization of independent professional services firms KPMG. Despite concerns about the speed of adoption, business leaders are confident AI can help solve some of today’s toughest challenges, including COVID-19 tracking and vaccines.

In the new study, Thriving in an AI World, high numbers of business leaders from the following industries say AI is at least moderately functional in their organizations, including those in industrial manufacturing (93 percent), financial services (84 percent), tech (83 percent), retail (81 percent); life sciences (77 percent), healthcare (67 percent) and government (61 percent).  In addition, several industries saw a significant increase from last year’s report: financial services (37-percentage point increase), retail sector (29-percentage point increase) and tech sector (20-percentage point increase).

“Leaders are experiencing COVID-19 whiplash, with AI adoption skyrocketing as a result of the pandemic. But many say it’s moving too fast. That’s probably because of current debate surrounding the ethics, governance and regulation of AI,” said Traci Gusher, principal of Artificial Intelligence at KPMG, in a news release. “Many business leaders do not have a view into what their organizations are doing to control and govern AI and may fear risks are developing.”

Specifically, half of business leaders in industrial manufacturing (55 percent), retail and tech (49 percent in each) say AI is moving faster than it should in their industry. Concerns about the speed of AI adoption are particularly pronounced among small companies (63 percent), business leaders with high AI knowledge (51 percent), and Gen Z and Millennial business leaders (51 percent).

Leaders confident in AI solving industry problems, including COVID-19

Business leaders from both small (88 percent) and large (80 percent) companies say AI technology helped their company during the COVID-19 outbreak. As we continue to navigate the pandemic, life sciences and healthcare business leaders are overwhelmingly confident in AI’s ability to monitor the spread of COVID-19 cases (94 percent and 91 percent), help with vaccine development (90 percent and 94 percent) and distribution (90 percent and 88 percent), respectively.

Beyond the pandemic, business leaders are confident in AI’s ability to solve major industry problems. Specifically, these include:

  • Financial services business leaders surveyed are confident in AI’s ability to detect fraud (93 percent), higher than last year’s report (85 percent).
  • And government decision-makers surveyed are confident in AI’s ability to improve bureaucratic efficiency (79 percent).

Business leaders optimistic about new administration, want more regulation

Business leaders across industries believe the Biden administration will do more to help advance the adoption of AI in the enterprise: industrial manufacturing (90 percent), tech (88 percent), retail (85 percent), financial services (82 percent), life sciences (81 percent), government (79 percent) and healthcare (73 percent).

Additionally, younger (Gen Z and Millennial) business leaders are more likely (90 percent) than older (Gen X and Baby Boomer) business leaders (79 percent) to be more optimistic about the potential actions the Biden administration will do to help advance the adoption of AI in enterprise.

Even with the optimism, business leaders are conscious that controls are needed and overwhelmingly believe the government has a role to play in regulating AI technology: industrial manufacturing (94 percent), retail (87 percent), financial services (86 percent), life sciences (86 percent), tech (86 percent), healthcare (84 percent) and government (82 percent). Business leaders with high AI knowledge (92 percent) are more likely to say the government should be involved in regulating AI technology in comparison to total business leaders (87 percent).

Compared to last year’s report, business leaders are more interested in government involvement, with financial services increasing by 27-percentage points, retail increasing by 24-percentage points, and tech increasing by 17-percentage points.

“We are seeing very high levels of support this year across all industries for more AI regulation. One reason for this may be that, as the technology advances very quickly, insiders want to avoid AI becoming the ‘Wild Wild West.’ Additionally, a more robust regulatory environment may help facilitate commerce. It can help remove unintended barriers that may be the result of other laws or regulations, or due to lack of maturity of legal and technical standards,” said Rob Dwyer, Principal, Advisory, specializing in technology in government.

The KPMG study, Thriving in an AI World, is an evolution of a study KPMG originally released in early 2020. The findings are based on feedback from a range of 950 full-time business decision makers and/or IT decision makers* with at least a moderate amount of AI knowledge and at companies with over $1 billion in revenue**, across seven industries (150 respondents+ per industry): technology, financial services, industrial manufacturing, healthcare, life sciences, retail, and government. The online survey was fielded between January 3rd, 2021 and January 16th, 2021. The margin of error (MOE) for the total sample at the 95 percent confidence level is +/- 3.2 percentage points.

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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