Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are game-changing technologies that are transforming the world around us. With businesses leveraging them to improve performance and productivity, there is an urgent need to address the skill shortage that continues to be the biggest challenge constraining AI adoption.
Artificial Intelligence and its subset Machine Learning (ML) are the fuel that drives digitalisation around us today. These emerging technologies lie at the heart of Industry 4.0, commingling machines and humans, and augmenting the capabilities of each to drive transformation across economies and our lives.
AI & ML are technologies that make machines ‘think’. While AI mimics human intelligence through algorithms deployed in a dynamic computing system, ML uses data and algorithms to keep learning from each interaction, gradually increasing accuracy. It is rapidly transforming our lives, from phones to television – its real impact can be seen in the changing tech-driven business landscape. Their applications range from complex computations to the smartwatches on our wrists.
AI, ML increasing accuracy, efficiency
AI and ML technologies have been game-changers in every sphere of business, revolutionising every function, from planning to organising, operating, and controlling. It has led to improved efficiency and accuracy with reduced wastage of resources.
Some of its benefits are:
Reducing Human Errors: AI is used in almost every field to reduce human error from careless mistakes to errors in judgment. AI-based technologies rely on algorithms and machine learning that are not susceptible to emotions or subjective parameters like intuition.
Increasing Accuracy: AI & ML tools are increasingly being used to improve accuracies across different fields, such as healthcare, logistics, and finance. For instance, one of the most researched fields today is the utilisation of AI for ensuring patient’s safety through improved diagnostic accuracy.
Multi-tasking: AI&ML tools have taken multi-tasking of machines a step further by applying intelligence to their tasks. For instance, take the map function on a smartphone. Not only does it chart the shortest route, but it also tracks our movement to guide us to our destination.
Augmenting Capabilities: AI is a necessary tool in the hybridisation of human and cyber capabilities in areas such as augmented intelligence, where machines are used to empower the human worker.
Increasing Efficiency: The prime reason for the fast adoption of these technologies is their increased efficiency of almost every tech-based tool we use today. From manufacturing to distribution, AI has completely changed the way we work.
The changing face of the industry
In today’s tech-driven world, no business can afford to ignore AI & ML. The ability to successfully leverage and implement these tools can well decide its competitive edge. According to Microsoft’s report on AI, businesses that adopted AI at scale saw an 11.5 per cent improvement in performance than those that did not. These businesses displayed improved productivity, profitability, and business outcomes.
Not surprisingly, more and more businesses globally are now focusing on AI adoption. In a 2021 global survey by IBM, 43 per cent of IT professionals reported that AI adoption momentum is now accelerating due to changing business requirements during the global pandemic. A similar survey they conducted with business leaders revealed an even greater demand, with more than half the CEOs expecting AI to deliver concrete results in the coming years. The surge in AI adoption can also be gauged by the steady rise of investment in the global AI market, which is expected to hit USD 13 trillion by 2030.
India has been leading the global field with the highest adoption of AI during the pandemic, leaving behind developed economies like the US, UK, and Japan. As per a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 94 per cent of the surveyed chief executives revealed that they had either already adopted or were planning to adopt AI. The field is led by the travel and hospitality sector with an 89 percent adoption rate, followed by telecom, media, and technology firms at 86%, financial services at 82 per cent, and healthcare and pharma at 73 per cent. More importantly, AI adoption is now across different functions from customer service to human resources, finance and tax, manufacturing, operations, sales and supply chain, R&D, legal and compliance.
Meeting challenges in skill gaps
The biggest challenges in AI adoption is addressing the skill gap, increasing complexity, and the lack of tools for developing AI. However, the most concerning and biggest challenge remains the skill gap, or the lack of expertise and knowledge of working with AI tools. The speed of technology, coupled with the rapid deployment of AI tools across every sector and the global economy has created a situation where the demand for skilled professionals far outstrips the supply.
A 2019 Gartner report found that 54 percent of surveyed Chief Information Officers viewed this skill gap as one of the biggest challenges in AI adoption. Findings from the 2020 Deloitte report suggests that businesses are still struggling to meet their requirements from an inadequate talent pool.
Given that these emerging technologies will be critical in leveraging our economy in the coming years, there is an urgent need to focus on meeting this talent gap. The solution lies in establishing a robust educational ecosystem where the government, educational institutions, and businesses come together to ensure a strong foundation in academics, followed by continual skilling and reskilling of professionals. With AI poised to be the engine that will drive Industry 4.0, it is imperative that we take immediate action in equipping our future workforce to meet the emerging demand worldwide.
The author is Anish Srikrishna, Chief Executive Officer, Times Professional Learning.