January 17, 2017

AI ‘Inevitable,’ Retraining Needed, Survey Finds

George Leopold

Much debated concerns about the impact artificial intelligence on the global workforce are again highlighted in a new study on AI adoption, but so too are worries among CIOs who worry they lack the in-house skills to deploy and manage machine intelligence.

A survey of about 1,600 senior managers released this week at the World Economic Forum by IT services specialist Infosys Ltd. (NYSE: INFY) seeks to explore the cultural impact of AI along with near-time applications and implications. Survey respondents who have already deployed the technology said they are primarily using it to automate mundane business processes as a way of saving money and boosting productivity.

Overall, however, more than half of all respondents (54 percent) said the biggest challenge to adopting AI remains “employee fear of change” along with an equal number who cited lack of skills required to manage deployments. Those findings appear to reinforce the need for employee retraining to simultaneously oversee the automation technology while boosting job security among the ranks of IT workers.

Of these, 52 percent said enterprises with a mature AI strategy were less likely to encounter employee fears as a barrier to adoption. The leading early applications for AI technology include big data automation (65 percent) and predictive and prescriptive analytics (54 percent), the Infosys survey found.

Given lingering concerns about the impact of automation on the global workforce, 85 percent of respondents said they plan to train employees about the benefits of AI while 80 percent vowed they would retrain and redeploy displaced workers. Among the areas where more training and education will be needed is data governance

“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,” noted Sandeep Dadlani, president of the Infosys Americas unit. “We must take necessary steps to ensure AI is developed morally and ethically across every part of society and that employees are actively engaged and provided with the necessary training to be central to this journey.”

The Infosys AI survey is one of several to be released at this week’s World Economic Forum as greater attention is focused on the impact of automation, or what some call the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” on the global workforce. Those issues are far from resolved, with the industry survey noting that more than half of respondents agreeing that ethical concerns swirling around AI remain a formidable obstacle to deployment and productivity gains.

The survey’s bottom line is that the vast majority of those executives surveyed believe AI deployments are “inevitable,” with emerging countries such as China and India leading the way. If and when employees are “on-board, it is down to the organization to help further nurture and foster this talent in an increasingly AI-filled world,” the survey concludes.

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