While executives are strategising the future of their organisations, businesses are planning to enhance their competitive differentiation and service excellence by expanding their digital competencies, such as:
- artificial intelligence (AI)
- internet of things
AI, particularly together with intelligent chatbots and deep learning, are making a big difference to businesses and are driving digital transformation.
AI is already making an impact
Working with small and medium-sized enterprises, innovators, scale ups and large organisations, we witness the wide range of ways organisations are innovating with AI. There are numerous examples where AI already is making an impact on the world and augmenting human capabilities in significant ways.
AI is already being integrated with and deployed into a variety of sectors, from:
- finance to agriculture
- health care
- criminal justice
AI is used in:
- decisions about loans
- personalised financial advice
- high frequency trading
- fraud detection.
A substantial role
It also plays a substantial role in national defence and provides significant improvement in cyber protection. Companies are applying deep learning to medical issues. Autonomous vehicles are already using advanced technological capabilities.
UK and other governments are adopting smart city applications that use AI to improve, among other things:
- service delivery
- environmental planning
- resource management
- energy utilisation
- crime prevention.
AI can also take over repetitive or dangerous tasks. It can free up the human workforce to do the work they are better equipped for, tasks that involve creativity and empathy among others. It can dramatically improve the efficiencies of our workplaces.
Improved decision making and productivity
AI algorithms are designed to make decisions and helping us to rethink how we integrate information, analyse data, and use the resulting insights to improve decision making.
AI could be helpful in analysing information in real time and augmented by the use of high-performance computing and deep learning systems.
There are enormous AI opportunities for the UK across all areas of science, economy and government. It is estimated that AI could add £630 billion GVA to the UK economy through a combination of intelligent automation, augmentation of labour and capital investments.
The resulting diffusion of innovation across the economy would potentially result in a productivity level 25% higher than would otherwise be the case.
Given the significant transformational scope of AI, it has the potential to have profound impacts on the economy and address national and global challenges. This profound impact of AI on the economy has yet to be realised, and will rely on substantial research, development, innovation, and commercial efforts.
In order to realise the full benefits of AI, we will need to act to support the growth of the UK’s AI research and innovation capabilities, building on strong foundations that already exists. This is likely to require substantial investment and effort over a sustained period.
AI will also be key for UK’s future competitiveness. With so many challenges to overcome and so many opportunities to unlock, only robust collaboration can ensure that we maximise the benefits of AI.
Build and retain trust
To support the transition to an AI-enabled, human-centred positive world, there is a need for well-designed policies, regulation, and governance. This will encourage innovation and investment in AI technologies while also protecting the public.
New national and governmental guidelines could underpin new strategies to:
- harness the beneficial powers of AI for citizens
- help navigate the AI-driven economic transition
- retain and strengthen public trust in AI.
The UK has an opportunity to drive responsible approaches to AI that are secure, safe, and reliable, and operate in a way we can all understand investigate if they fail.
At Innovate UK, we are working with the British Standards Institute to develop a publicly accessible standard on responsible innovation. The standard will provide guidance to help all businesses achieve the benefits of their innovation not just AI while innovating responsibly.
Design and ethics
There is also an increased opportunity for the business community to integrate ethics and design thinking into projects from the outset. Businesses need to understand how to translate ethical principles into organisational practice and to be able to do so cost-effectively.
Currently there is a lack of maturity and capability that creates uncertainty and cost.
Accessible digital skills training
Everyone also needs to be educated and conscious of how to use and adopt AI but not everyone will need to be a data scientist.
We will need technologically aware citizens and upskilling of the general workforce of digital skills. This will ensure everyone is able to navigate technological transformations and be active participants in society and the economy.
We should also explore data science and AI apprenticeship programmes that will allow employers to skill up their staff in an accessible way. It will provide the opportunity for employees to transform their skills and career prospects.
Apprenticeships often provide a powerful catalyst for innovation. They are a source of new skills, new ways of thinking and are often change makers. Apprenticeship programmes already exist across:
- data analytics
- data science
- specialist AI.
Further information can be found at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.
Articulating the value of training
The challenge is not around the lack of training programmes. These exist. The challenge is around seeing the value in apprenticeships and clear articulation of the value. And for businesses to have the ability and capacity to build these apprenticeship schemes into their talent strategy.
There are also opportunities to rethink our educational ecosystem and how we bring children, educators, employers, and innovators together to partner with technology to provide solutions that enhance outcomes.
The heart of tomorrow’s system of education must be built on a system that evolves around and exploits our intellectual and technical capabilities.
This is for our competitive advantage, and the strategic and digital future of our nation.
It should focus deliberately on producing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and maths) pupils from the ground up who could use both right and left side of the brain seamlessly to bring ingenuity to life.
The future of ethical AI is up to us
AI may well be a revolution in human affairs and become the single most influential human innovation in history. There are opportunities and harms, and our job is to maximise opportunities and minimise harms.
Ultimately, it is up to us. The users, developers, innovators, and business decision makers. To ensure the ethical development and responsible use of AI so that AI continues to be a tool to create significant economic value and realise the desired societal, environmental, and business benefits.
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