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AI Adoption Accelerated During the Pandemic but Many Say It’s Moving Too Fast: KPMG Survey

Outlook for AI Optimistic Under the Biden Administration; More Want AI Regulation 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of artificial intelligence (AI) 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 those in:  industrial manufacturing (93 percent), financial services (84 percent), tech (83 percent), retail (81 percent); life sciences (77 percent), healthcare (67 percent) and government (61 percent). In  addition, several industries saw a significant increase from last year’s report: financial services  (37-percentage point increase), retail sector (29-percentage point increase) and tech sector (20- percentage point increase). 

According to Traci Gusher, Principal of Artificial Intelligence, “Leaders are experiencing  COVID-19 whiplash, with AI adoption skyrocketing as a result of the pandemic. 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.” 

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Specifically, half of business leaders in industrial manufacturing (55 percent), retail and tech (49 percent 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 percent), business  leaders with high AI knowledge (51 percent), and Gen Z and Millennial business leaders (51 percent). 

Leaders confident in AI solving industry problems, including COVID-19 Business leaders from both small (88 percent) and large (80 percent) companies say AI technology helped their company during the COVID-19 outbreak. As we continue to navigate the pandemic, life sciences and healthcare business leaders are overwhelmingly confident in AI’s  ability to monitor the spread of COVID-19 cases (94 percent and 91 percent), help with vaccine  development (90 percent and 94 percent) and distribution (90 percent and 88 percent),  respectively. 

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Beyond the pandemic, business leaders are confident in AI’s ability to solve major industry  problems. Specifically, these include: 

  • Financial services business leaders surveyed are confident in AI’s ability to detect fraud (93 percent), higher than last year’s report (85 percent). 
  • And government decision-makers surveyed are confident in AI’s ability to improve  bureaucratic efficiency (79 percent).  

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Business leaders optimistic about new administration, 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 percent), tech (88 percent),  retail (85 percent), financial services (82 percent), life sciences (81 percent), government (79 percent) and healthcare (73 percent).  

Additionally, younger (Gen Z and Millennial) business leaders are more likely (90 percent) than  older (Gen X and Baby Boomer) business leaders (79 percent) 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 percent), retail (87 percent), financial services (86 percent), life sciences (86 percent), tech (86 percent), healthcare (84 percent) and government (82 percent). Business  leaders with high AI knowledge (92 percent) are more likely to say the government should be  involved in regulating AI technology in comparison to total business leaders (87 percent). 

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.’ Additionally, 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,” said Rob Dwyer, Principal, Advisory, specializing in technology in Government.

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