AI is everywhere, but governance isn’t, and that’s not good

AI is growing governance needed
Image by Andrey Suslov | Bigstockphoto

ITEM: More enterprises are adopting AI across Asia-Pacific – but it’s not necessarily governed well, and that’s a big problem.

According to a global study published by Juniper Networks and Wakefield Research, enterprises have largely moved past proof-of-concepts and limited trials of artificial intelligence over the past 12 months and are now implementing it across their organizations, thanks to pandemic-related digital acceleration and the maturation of tools available.

The good news is that those implementations are already yielding tangible benefits to the organizations. The bad news is that AI governance policies aren’t nearly as fully realized as they need to be. That’s a problem because both are crucial to manage AI’s growth responsibly when it comes to privacy issues, regulation compliance, hacking and terrorism, the report says:

Without governance comes the potential for irresponsibly developed AI, which could result in security breaches, unethical or biased AI, falling behind potential future legislation, or even simply ending up with an AI system that’s not fulfilling its intent, just to name a few possible risks.

According to the survey, 92% of respondents in APAC said their organization already utilizes AI-powered solutions to automate or aid decision making, compared to just 42% a year ago. Also, most agree that artificial intelligence will reduce risk and increase quality at work, particularly for business functions such as networking/cloud, IT infrastructure and supply chains.

On the other hand, while most organizations have deployed artificial intelligence, they don’t use it much. Just 23% of APAC respondents reported a heavy reliance on AI to perform tasks, suggesting a strong belief in the advantages of AI but a lack of trust in them.

One reason for that, the report says, is the lack of sufficient AI governance. Just about everyone in APAC and elsewhere agree that effective governance policies are crucial to stay ahead of future legislation – however, globally most respondents say their governance policies aren’t mature enough. Almost two-thirds of APAC respondents said they believe more needs to be done to effectively govern artificial intelligence as it continues to be applied to more facets of business and life.

N = 700 Source: Juniper Networks / Wakefield Research

In terms of the feared consequences of inadequate oversight of AI, APAC respondents are less worried about regulation compliance (24%) and more worried about the security risks, such as AI-powered hacking or terrorism (44%), as well as privacy (41%).

A key question for enterprises in AI implementation is whether to buy off-the-shelf solutions or build them in-house. Globally, it’s more or less a three-way split between using only off-the-shelf solutions, only in-house solutions or a mix of both. However, the main barrier to in-house AI is lack of skillsets and expertise in the IT department – over half of global respondents say reliability is a top challenge of their company building their own AI solutions, followed by integration with existing systems, finding new AI-capable talent and development time.

APAC respondents say they are taking steps to ensure employees are keeping up with AI growth, including providing the tools and opportunities to apply newly acquired AI skills (38%), updating performance metrics to include AI (45%), developing a workforce plan that identifies new skills and roles (40%), and changing learning and development frameworks (50%).

“The data tells a clear story about the importance of holistic AI readiness and that leaders in the APAC IT sector are at the forefront of AI adoption,” says Ming Kai Lee, head of Systems Engineering, APAC, at Juniper. “While the technology has essentially been rolled out and implementation rates have been healthy in the region, the critical next step is to manage organizations’ readiness to use AI responsibly by implementing essential governance protocols that not only protect enterprises, but also augments employees’ trust in the solution. It must be a cyclical process of execution with governance and policies updated regularly to address and reduce liabilities.”

One other findings of note: Enterprises still don’t see artificial intelligence as a tool for cutting staff. Despite growing dependence on AI, IT leaders don’t see it replacing humans, but instead enabling improved employee experiences by allowing them to free up their time to focus on more strategic tasks. About half of IT leaders in APAC say AI will allow employees to focus on being more innovative (54%), gain new skills (48%) and increase their engagement (50%).

The full report is available here [PDF].

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