Australia is lagging behind its global counterparts when it comes to adoption and acceptance of artificial intelligence (AI), a new report has found.
The report, by global professional services firm Genpact found fewer Australian workers think AI will create new career opportunities (24%), compared to those who think AI threatens their job (31%).
Globally, however, more workers tend to see career opportunities from AI (36%) than say it threatens their current job (28%).
And only one in four (43%) Australia consumers say AI is making their lives better (vs 53% globally).
Given this reluctance to embrace AI, businesses need to act fast to understand lingering doubts such as consumer concerns about AI bias and privacy, the Genpact report notes.
Working with robots
The report found close to half of Australian workers (48%) say they will be comfortable working with robots in three years (vs 54% globally).
However, an overwhelming majority of Australian senior executives (85%) say their workers will be comfortable working with robots in three years (vs 86% globally).
There also is a disconnect about bots between senior executives and consumers.
The overwhelming majority of Australian C-suite and other senior executives (88%) say their customers will prefer to be served by a bot than a call centre agent by the end of 2021.
And 38% of them strongly believe this to be the case.
But the consumer perspective is considerably different.
Only 7% of Australians say they would prefer to be served by a chatbot in the next three years (vs 15% globally).
Combating AI bias
Most Australians surveyed (84%) believe it is important for companies to fight AI bias (vs 78% globally), and 74% are concerned about robots discriminating against them in the decision-making process (vs 67% globally).
The good news is, nearly all C-suite and senior executives (98%) surveyed say their companies are taking steps to combat AI bias (vs 95% globally).
But most have just started the process and are not addressing it holistically.
Only 31% of Australian companies have established comprehensive governance and internal control frameworks to manage AI bias (vs 34% globally).
Other smaller steps show no consensus on the best approach.
While privacy is a concern, many consumers are willing to let AI access their data if they see benefits.
Almost half of Australian consumers (47%) surveyed said they are comfortable with companies using AI to access personal data if it improves their customer experience, compared with 54% of consumers globally.
Concerns for future generations
A little more than half of Australian consumers (54%) also believe the government should be doing more to protect their data in relation to AI (vs 52% globally).
Despite some concern for their own job security, consumers are more worried about what’s in store for future generations, the report found.
The majority of Australians (56%) believe AI threatens their children and grandchildren’s careers (vs 46% globally).
More education and training needed
The report found more exposure, education and training is needed for more Australian workers to adopt and accept AI.
More than half of Australian workers (56%) indicate they would be more comfortable with AI if they understood it more.
And 77% of Australians are willing to learn new skills to take advantage of AI in their current job.
Yet, when it comes to how companies are addressing reskilling for AI and technology disruption, while there is improvement, a big disconnect remains between senior executives’ actions and workers’ experiences.
Almost two-thirds of Australian senior executives (62%) say their organisations provide employees with reskilling opportunities, compared with 53% globally.
Yet despite more senior executives saying they offer reskilling, only 30% of Australian workers say AI-related training options are available at their companies, and only 19% of these respondents say they have participated in that training.
Employees want training, executives say they are providing it, but workers haven’t experienced it.
In 2019, a goal for companies is to work harder to bridge this divide, the report suggests.
- Only 43% of Australians believe AI is improving their lives, compared to 48% of UK consumers and 59% in the US
- Nearly every Australian executive surveyed (99%) says their company plans to implement AI-related technologies over the next three years
- Nearly half (48%) of Australian workers say they will be comfortable working with robots within three years (vs 54% globally)
- However, senior executives are more optimistic, with 85% believing their employees will be happy working with robots in the same time frame
- One fifth of Australian workers currently believe that AI in the workplace improves processes and makes companies more efficient (20%), reduces company costs (22%) and improves the ability leverage data and analytics (21%)
- Almost one in three (31%) Australian workers believe AI threatens their job (vs. 28% globally), and 56% worry that AI will threaten the jobs of their children and future generations (vs. 46% globally)
- Despite these concerns, 69% of Australian workers say they expect to see benefits from AI in the workplace in the next three years, and 77% are open to learning new skills so they can take advantage of AI
About the research
The survey of C-suite and senior executives included 500 executives in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan. Respondents are from financial services, healthcare, life sciences, high tech, consumer packaged goods, retail, and industrial manufacturing industries. The research also included an online survey poll of 4,000 adults in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. This is the second edition of Genpact’s AI research: AI: 360 insights from the next frontier of business