Irish Government must adopt a public policy on AI, survey finds

18 Jun 2019

Image: © Patrick Daxenbichler/

A new survey from PwC and the Analytics Institute has led to calls for the Irish Government to launch a public policy on AI.

Ireland’s bid to become an island of artificial intelligence (AI) technology seems to be closer to a dream than reality, based on a survey of more than 100 Irish business leaders. The survey, jointly conducted by PwC and the Analytics Institute, has shown a consensus that Ireland is far behind the US when it comes to AI readiness, opportunities and challenges.

Of those surveyed, 76pc said that the Irish Government needs to implement a public policy for AI, similar to what it has just announced with the Climate Action Plan. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority (87pc) believe it is important that Ireland puts itself at the forefront of the AI revolution.

What is considered the largest stumbling block to adopting AI, the report found, is the large gap between AI vision and execution.

Most worryingly, 39pc said that they have no plans to roll out AI initiatives in the coming years. 46pc admitted they do not understand the impact that AI will have on their businesses in the next five years. This is despite the fact that 76pc said they recognise that the failure to apply AI could give them a serious disadvantage.

Meanwhile, more than half (52pc) said they are concerned that their companies won’t be able to meet demands for AI skills.

When discussing fears of the ‘robot takeover’ of the workplace, 53pc said they don’t expect to make any changes to employee headcounts in the immediate future as a result of automation.

Opening the black box

One of the big worries for those surveyed was ‘black box’ AI, which makes decisions without tracing a clear decision path back to humans. 88pc of Irish respondents said AI decisions need to be explainable, but 44pc have no plans to address such concerns.

“While AI policy is still in its infancy, many policymakers are calling for comprehensive guidelines that address ethical algorithms,” said Lorcan Malone, chief executive of the Analytics Institute. “We see national AI strategies emerging, with a large majority of Irish respondents calling on the Irish Government to create a public policy on AI.”

The analysis identified six priorities that could lead to Irish AI success:

  1. An understanding of the technology
  2. Developing an AI strategy
  3. Identifying datasets to solve specific problems
  4. Building an AI-ready workforce
  5. Making AI trustworthy
  6. Combining AI with other technologies such as the internet of things

PwC partner and its AI and data analytics leader, Darren O’Neill, added: “Aside from rich business insights, cost efficiencies and better understanding of customer habits, AI’s power can be harnessed even more if it communicates with other emerging technologies and is used to enhance products and services for individual preferences. Companies that do this will successfully seize the benefits from AI.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic