Here's how Australia is doing with AI. Source: Shutterstock

Here’s how Australia is doing with AI. Source: Shutterstock

Can Australia catch up with the US and UK when it comes to AI?

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE is something every company wants — and it’s definitely something business leaders are working on.

However, not everyone chasing AI has the same goals and objectives.

According to a recent Deloitte study, for example, Australia is using AI predominantly to catch up or stay on par with global peers.

China, German, and the US, on the other hand, are using AI to widen their lead or leapfrog ahead of competitors.

That might sound like a small difference to managers but experts believe that’s something that deserves the attention of business leaders looking to grow their business into new geographies and industries.

Deloitte believes that organizations from Australia hold a positive view of the strategic importance of AI to their success.

Its study found that 79 percent believe that AI will be either ‘very important’ or ‘critically important’ to their business over the next two years.

“Despite the optimism, 50 percent of AI early adopters from Australia report that AI helps them “catch up” or “keep up” with their competition,” the report said.

Consultants from the team believe that there’s a mismatch between perceived levels of urgency and readiness in the country.

Respondents said that inadequate AI strategies and a massive skills gap in the technology space were the two main reasons for Australia’s lack of ambition to use AI as a means to catapult itself ahead of the competition.

Fortunately, a majority of organizations in the country are using AI-as-a-Service offerings, which makes it easy to build and use AI-powered business solutions without really needing in-house AI infrastructure and skills.

Google CloudML, AWS SageMaker, and Alibaba Cloud are some of the leading vendors providing such solutions — attracting clients across segments — public service, MNCs, SMEs, and everyone in between.

Potential AI risks present another worry, with 49 percent of early adopters reporting major or extreme concern—the highest level among countries.

Those with a finger on the pulse of the market know that several prominent Australian business and industry leaders are urgently asking for a national debate on the policies and regulatory and ethical standards needed to address the risks and challenges associated with AI.

The government is working on helping advance AI capabilities but Deloitte believes more efforts will be needed if Australian businesses want to keep up with the rest of the world.

The 2018–19 national budget allocated AU$29.9 million (US$21 million) over four years to boost the country’s AI capabilities, including the development of a technology road map and frameworks for standards and AI ethics.

Truth be told, compared to neighbors in Singapore and close competitors USA and UK, Australia’s spending on AI indicates a lack of actual thrust — but regulators must realize that spending will reap dividends almost immediately.

According to a recent McKinsey report Australia’s automation opportunity: Reigniting productivity and inclusive income growth, AI-powered automation technologies allow companies to create better customer outcomes and help regulators better support citizens and new business ventures.

“We estimate that between 25 and 46 percent of current work activities in Australia could be automated by 2030, helping to drive a renaissance in productivity, income and economic growth.”

“If seized, this opportunity could add AUD1.1 trillion (US$780 million) to AUD4 trillion (US$2.83 trillion) to the economy over the next 15 years, providing every Australian with AUD4,000 (US$2,800) to AUD15,000 (US$10,600) in additional income per year by 2030,” said the McKinsey report.

Overall, Australia seems to be facing a challenge in terms of creating real AI solutions that help them leapfrog ahead of everyone else.

To make sure they don’t lose out, businesses in the country need to make investments in AI by themselves and urge the government to support their efforts.