The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of artificial intelligence adoption, but many say it’s moving too fast, according to a new KPMG survey. Despite concerns about the speed of adoption, business leaders are confident AI can help solve some of today’s toughest challenges, including COVID-19 tracking and vaccines.
In the new study, Thriving in an AI World, high numbers of business leaders from the following industries say AI is at least moderately functional in their organizations, including: Industrial manufacturing (93%), financial services (84%), tech (83%), retail (81%); life sciences (77%), healthcare (67%) and government (61%).
In addition, several industries saw a significant increase from last year’s report—financial services (a 37% point increase), retail sector (a 29% point increase) and tech sector (a 20% point increase).
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“Leaders are experiencing COVID-19 whiplash, with AI adoption skyrocketing as a result of the pandemic,” said Traci Gusher, principal of artificial intelligence, at KPMG, in a statement. “But many say it’s moving too fast. That’s probably because of current debate surrounding the ethics, governance and regulation of AI. Many business leaders do not have a view into what their organizations are doing to control and govern AI and may fear risks are developing.”
Specifically, half of business leaders in industrial manufacturing (55%), retail and tech (49% in each) say AI is moving faster than it should in their industry. Concerns about the speed of AI adoption are particularly pronounced among small companies (63%), business leaders with high AI knowledge (51%), and Gen Z and millennial business leaders (51%).
Confidence in AI solving industry problems, including COVID-19
Business leaders from both small (88%) and large (80%) companies say AI technology helped their company during the COVID-19 outbreak. Life sciences and healthcare business leaders are overwhelmingly confident in AI’s ability to monitor the spread of COVID-19 cases (94% and 91%), help with vaccine development (90% and 94%) and distribution (90% and 88%), respectively.
Beyond the pandemic, financial services business leaders said they are confident in AI’s ability to detect fraud (93%), higher than last year’s report (85%).
And government decision makers said they are confident in AI’s ability to improve bureaucratic efficiency (79%), the survey said.
Business leaders want more regulation
Business leaders across industries believe the Biden administration will do more to help advance the adoption of AI in the enterprise—industrial manufacturing (90%), tech (88%), retail (85%), financial services (82%), life sciences (81%), government (79%) and healthcare (73%), according to the survey.
Additionally, younger (Gen Z and millennial) business leaders said they are more likely (90%) than older (Gen X and baby boomer) business leaders (79%) to be more optimistic about the potential actions the Biden administration will do to help advance the adoption of AI in enterprise.
Even with the optimism, business leaders are conscious that controls are needed and overwhelmingly believe the government has a role to play in regulating AI technology—industrial manufacturing (94%), retail (87%), financial services (86%), life sciences (86 %), tech (86%), healthcare (84%) and government (82%).
Business leaders with high AI knowledge (92 %) are more likely to say the government should be involved in regulating AI technology in comparison to total business leaders (87%).
Compared to last year’s report, business leaders are more interested in government involvement, with financial services increasing by 27 percentage points, retail increasing by 24 percentage points and tech increasing by 17 percentage points.
“We are seeing very high levels of support this year across all industries for more AI regulation. One reason for this may be that, as the technology advances very quickly, insiders want to avoid AI becoming the ‘Wild Wild West,'” said Rob Dwyer, principal, advisory, specializing in technology in government at KPMG, in a statement.
Dwyer added that “a more robust regulatory environment may help facilitate commerce. It can help remove unintended barriers that may be the result of other laws or regulations, or due to lack of maturity of legal and technical standards.”
KPMG said the findings in the study are based on feedback from a range of 950 full-time business decision makers and/or IT decision makers with at least a moderate amount of AI knowledge and at companies with over $1 billion in revenue, in the technology, financial services, industrial manufacturing, healthcare, life sciences, retail and government sectors. The online survey was fielded between Jan. 3 and Jan. 16.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the increases across industries over last year were percentage point upticks.