By 2021, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will allow the rate of innovation and employee productivity improvements in the Asia Pacific to nearly double (X1.9 times), according to business leaders in the Asia Pacific.
The study from Microsoft and IDC Asia/Pacific, Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia’s Growth Potential Through AI says while 80% of business leaders polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organization’s competitiveness, only 41% of organizations in the region have embarked on their AI journeys. Those organizations that have adopted AI expect it to increase their competitiveness 100% by 2021.
“Today, every company is a software company, and increasingly, every interaction is digital. To be successful in this new world, organizations need to be a fast adopter of best-in-class technology; and secondly, they need to build their own unique digital capabilities,” said Ralph Haupter, President, Microsoft Asia.
Why adopt AI?
For the organizations that have implemented AI initiatives, the top five business drivers to adopt the technology were (in priority order): Better customer engagement (26% of respondents named it as the number one driver); higher competitiveness (19%); higher margins (18%); accelerated innovation (15%) and more productive employees (9%).
Victor Lim, Vice President, Consulting Operations, IDC Asia/Pacific said: “Last year, organizations that have adopted AI saw tangible improvements in those areas in the range of 18% to 26%. They forecast further improvements of at least 1.8 times in the three-year horizon, with the biggest jump expected in accelerated innovation and competitiveness.”
The study evaluated six dimensions critical to ensuring the success of a nation’s AI journey. It uncovered that Asia Pacific needs to build upon its strategy, capabilities, and infrastructure in order to accelerate its AI journey.
“Asia Pacific is not ready yet for AI. To succeed in AI race, markets in the region need to substantially improve their readiness. “There is an urgent need for talents and tools to develop, deploy and monitor AI models, along with the availability of a robust data estate with the adequate governance.”
Address skills challenge for an AI-enabled workforce
The study found that Asia Pacific’s business leaders and workers hold positive viewpoints about the AI’s impact on the future of jobs. The majority (62% of business leaders and 66% of workers) believe that AI will either help to do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.
“When it comes to creating or replacing jobs, 18% of business leaders believe that AI will produce new jobs, whereas 15% feel that the technology will replace jobs. Interestingly, workers are more optimistic, with only 5% expecting AI to replace jobs, while 13% anticipate AI to create new ones,” said Lim.
The study also found that workers are more willing to reskill than business leaders believe they are. 20% of business leaders say it may be too difficult for workers to develop new skills, whereas only 14% of workers felt that it was a challenge.
“The jobs of today will not be the jobs of tomorrow, and we have already seen demand for software engineering roles expand rapidly beyond just the tech sector. However, building an AI-ready workforce does not necessarily mean an acute need for technological skills,” added Haupter.
The top three future skills required by business leaders in the Asia Pacific include quantitative and analytical skills, digital skills, as well as adaptability and a continuous learning mindset. The demand for all three is higher than the existing supply.
The study also uncovered that business leaders value soft skills more than workers expect. The biggest skills gaps identified were in:
1. Adaptability and continuous learning (7-pt difference)
2. Leadership and managing others (7-pt difference)
3. Entrepreneurship and initiative taking (7-pt difference)
The study identified 6% of organizations which are AI Leaders. These organizations have already incorporated AI into their core business strategy and nearly doubled their business benefits today as compared to other organizations. Compared to the rest of the organizations in Asia Pacific.