Australian businesses lead in AI deployment but bias challenges still exist: Genpact

Australians still fear AI bias and that algorithms can make decisions that affect them without their knowledge, a new report has found.

A new study by Genpact has revealed that Australia is ahead of the race when it comes to deploying artificial intelligence (AI) when compared to the UK, the US, and Japan.

According to Genpact's third annual AI 360 study, 36% of Australian senior executives are "extensively" implementing AI-related technologies to their business.

Of those, 38% are reporting their organisations have invested $10 million or more, while another 15% are investing $20 million or more in AI.

When compared to how much organisations globally are investing in AI, 41% are mainly spending between $5 million to $10 million.

Some of the reasons as to why senior executives in Australia are adopting AI is because 41% believe it frees up more time for employees to focus on more important tasks, another 40% see AI as a way to improve customer experience and service, and 39% agree AI offers businesses the ability to leverage data and analytics.

Genpact Australia vice president and country manager Richard Morgan said the adoption of AI by Australian businesses signals that executives understand the potential benefits it could deliver.

"I think AI is now a way to try to mine information and drive better outcomes for the company themselves, and to give clients a better experience to get them coming back and using your products and services more frequently -- that's the holy grail," he told ZDNet.

See also: Why AI bias could be a good thing (TechRepublic) 

Australian executives also believe that integrating AI into the talent process could help reduce gender bias in recruitment, hiring, and promotion, the study showed.

On the other end of the spectrum, three-quarters of Australians said they are concerned about AI bias and another 67% fear that AI will make decisions that affect them without their knowledge.

Additionally, the report indicated how 63% of Australians -- the highest globally – are more likely to recommend a company that can demonstrate its AI algorithms are bias-free. While another 59% are more likely to purchase products or services from such businesses.

Morgan believes businesses can easily address these concerns and mitigate any bias by ensuring that those responsible for developing the AI technologies are diverse themselves.

"As a manager, or as a businessperson, if all you do is put a team that has the same mindset then the answer the AI comes up with will be limited," he said.

"But if take a bigger set of people who are diverse in gender, ethnicity, and education, if you've got a broader-based team and you've got broader ideas coming in, then the outcome tends to be on-balance and a more robust outcome."

Morgan went on to also highlight the need to bring about governance to maintain accountability for the AI that is developed.

"You've designed something, you've implemented it, you then to look at what is it actually doing. Is it making the right decisions or where is it failing … and do we need to retrain it, give it more information … and are the outcomes what we're really wanting … you've got to have the feedback; it's not a set and forget, he said.

Read more: Is AI less biased than human recruiters? 56% of job applicants think so (TechRepublic)

He explained how it is particularly important with AI because it is a technology designed to learn from the data that is put into it.

"AI isn't just an ordinary computer system, it actually makes decisions," Morgan said.

The study also indicated that, while more than 85% of Australians said they are willing to upskill to take advantage of AI technologies, for the third consecutive year, companies are not meeting the demand for reskilling.

According to employees surveyed, 63% of Australian organisations do not offer AI-related training. Although, 58% of senior executives in Australia said they are now talking about providing employees with AI training.

"Actively reskilling and upskilling employees will be instrumental in using AI capabilities in a meaningful and efficient way," Morgan said. 

"It is a worry that a majority of Australian organisations do not offer AI-related training. Building relevant AI skills is an important challenge; only organisations that address it head on will be well placed to make more informed decisions to stay competitive and keep innovating."

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