Two-thirds of "big business" organisations in Australia have artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in place, spending an average of AU$8.2 million in 2016, according to a report from IT giant Infosys.
Despite the reported weighty financial investment, Infosys revealed that Australian businesses ranked last in AI maturity globally, citing a lack of skills and ethical concerns as having an impact on the country's adoption levels.
In compiling its Amplifying Human Potential: Towards Purposeful Artificial Intelligence report, Infosys surveyed 1,600 business decision makers, with 200 representing medium to large organisations in Australia, and found that Australian business leaders believe the future growth of their organisation depends on large-scale AI adoption.
Infosys said 64.5 percent of the Australian respondents have already deployed "AI technology" within their organisation, but noted that only 59 percent of respondents were automating parts of their organisation, 49 percent were using predictive analytics, and 46 percent were working with machine learning.
While Infosys said local businesses were aware of the benefits of AI, the study found further adoption of AI technology was being impacted by ethical debates, such as whether or not AI will be a danger to humanity in the future.
Almost two thirds -- 63 percent -- of respondents said ethical concerns were a major barrier to their organisation's AI deployment plans, compared to 33 in the United States. Similarly, 74 percent of Australian business leaders said ethical concerns were stopping AI from being as effective as it could be, more than any other country.
With 23 percent -- the highest percentage, globally -- of Australian respondents admitting they do not have any AI-related skills in their business, Infosys highlighted the need for greater focus on science, technology, education, and mathematics (STEM) education in Australia.
In a survey conducted last year, Infosys reported that young Australians were ill-prepared for the digital economy that stands before them.
Infosys found 50 percent of young Australians believe their education did not prepare them for what to expect from working life, and 58 percent of respondents expect those with computer science skills to be more likely to have a successful career.
Despite this view, young Australians were found to be the least confident of their technical abilities and job prospects in the innovation age, and whilst they are highly aware of the need to learn new skills, Australians are also the least interested in improving their STEM knowledge.
Less than a fifth wanted to develop data skills, build mobile apps, or learn how to code; even fewer -- just 3.41 percent -- had a desire to work for a startup over a large company.
Globally speaking, Infosys reported in its latest research that there was a clear link between an organisation's revenue growth and its AI maturity, noting that organisations that report faster growth in revenue over the past three years were also more likely to be further ahead when it comes to AI maturity.
"Artificial intelligence adoption is on the rise and we are excited to see the investments in AI that businesses are gradually making to derive meaningful and creative change," Infosys president & head of Americas Sandeep Dadlani said.
"As we are seeing AI mature and gain momentum, our research shows that the next four years will witness further spikes in interest, and general bullishness about the significant value and benefits that can be obtained through AI adoption."