Australia unprepared for AI risks

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Australian businesses are the most concerned about the risks of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and alarmingly, the least prepared to deal with them, according to new research from Deloitte.

Australia is ‘playing from behind’ according to the ‘State of AI in the Enterprise’ report, which investigated market readiness across seven countries to effectively leverage AI technologies, such as machine learning, deep learning, and natural language processing.

Half of Australian early adopters reported that AI helps them ‘catch up’ or ‘keep up’ with competitors, the highest rate of any country.

The top two concerns within Australia and globally related to AI cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and making the wrong decisions based on AI recommendations.

Deloitte Partner Alan Marshall said: “We’re living in a time of extreme change. Technology is developing at a staggering pace, and in many ways it’s making our lives easier. But it’s important we don’t let the benefits of technological advancements get away from us. AI is proliferating through our professional and personal lives, redefining the way we do business and engage with each other.

“This report exposes just how far behind Australia is in its AI technology development compared to countries like China, Germany and the US. Australian business and government need to band together, build a unified strategy, and put sufficient funding into our AI technologies.”

The research revealed 81% of global early adopters believe AI technologies are ‘very’ or ‘critically’ important to their business success today. However, an overwhelming number of respondents admitted they weren’t sufficiently across AI technologies, and were highly concerned with potential AI risks.

Marshall added: “Globally, 43% of executives have major or extreme concerns about AI risks, and only 40% believe they are fully prepared to address those risks. That’s a frightening statistic.

“More concerning is that Australia is in the worst shape of the seven countries surveyed, with 49% of early adopters reporting ‘major’ or ‘extreme’ concern.”

These concerns included:

  • AI stealing sensitive or proprietary data;
  • Using AI to impersonate authorised users to defeat cybersecurity defences;
  • Loss of human empathy in AI/cognitive decisions;
  • Using AI to automate tasks involved in executing cyber-attacks; and
  • AI/cognitive code that has bugs which make it vulnerable to attack.

Most organisations reported a significant AI skills gap, with 68% of global respondents indicating a ‘moderate-to-extreme’ gap.

Marshall said: “Because AI is evolving so quickly, we’re facing a shortage of professionals who can understand, develop and implement AI technologies.

“The report found Australia had the second largest skills gap at 72%. That’s a substantial crack that we need to fill, and do so quickly.

“On the plus side, Australia is responding to the skills gap by being mor